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Ho, ho, ho!! "Rip-off" Britain strikes again!!


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The great Christmas shopping price fix: Millions paying up to twice as much depending on where they live



By Sophie Borland and David Derbyshire

Last updated at 9:11 AM on 05th December 2009




Enlarge article-1233339-01D6E2550000044D-857_306x465.jpg Shoppers could pay more for certain items depending on where they live


Millions of shoppers will pay inflated prices for Christmas presents this year because of where they live.

Major stores are operating a postcode lottery, with prices for the same item twice as high in some branches.

People unable to shop around could end up hundreds of pounds worse off, a Daily Mail investigation has shown. Consumer groups accused the stores of exploiting shoppers.

The revelation came as retailers prepared for the busiest weekend of the year.


Millions of people will hit the shops today in a recession-busting spending spree just three weeks before Christmas.

But our checks found wide difference in pricing. Many popular gifts typically cost more in London and the South East.

WH Smith is charging £9.99 for Cheryl Cole's autobiography Cheryl at its London branches, almost double what it costs in Glasgow.


Customers who buy Gok Wan's Work Your Wardrobe style guide at WH Smith in London and Newcastle will pay twice as much as shoppers in many other cities.


A set of BaByliss hair straighteners is nearly £98 in Boots in London, Birmingham and Newcastle but half that price in Bristol and Glasgow.






The biggest variations were on a Canon digital camera, £60 more in John Lewis in London than in Bristol, and a Philips Sonicare toothbrush which cost £156 in Boots in Glasgow, but £98 elsewhere, although the store said they were different models.


Sarah Dennis, of consumer magazine Which? said: 'Some of these differences are staggering and emphasise the need to shop around for a good deal - which during the busy Christmas period is just an extra hassle for shoppers.

'Which? would advise comparing internet prices and calling up shops. If you've got evidence of cheaper deals and your local stores are more expensive, why not have a go at haggling to get the price you're after.'



The survey also found that stores are selective about special offers.



Shoppers in Glasgow who buy a £299 Kenwood food mixer from John Lewis get a free blender worth £90. Although there was no sign of the offer in English stores, John Lewis said it was available there, just not advertised.

Lola Bello, policy expert at Consumer Focus, said: 'Customers expect to pay the same or nearly the same price for goods, regardless of which branch they use. There is no reason for significant price differences.'

The findings are another reason why so many customers are abandoning the high street and buying Christmas presents online. They can save hundreds by using price comparison sites.

Retailers admitted that they varied prices across the country, but insisted they were not cheating shoppers.

A spokesman for John Lewis said: 'We have a team that researches national competitors' prices and our branches also check and match their own local competitors.

'Matching prices locally gives our customers confidence that they will not find the same product for a cheaper price within their local area.'

WH Smith said it 'trialled' different prices and promotions in regional branches 'to understand which work best for our customers'.

A spokesman added: 'We also have to be flexible to local market conditions so, where appropriate, we will tailor our offer to suit local needs. This may take the form of different product mix, different promotions or different pricing to cater to specific groups such as students in a university town.'

Boots admitted some goods were cheaper in certain stores - but blamed labelling errors for many discrepancies.

A spokesman said: 'The customer will always pay the correct price at the till.'

Marks & Spencer, where we found a price difference of £25 on a child's toothbrush, said a recent reduction may not yet be reflected in shelf prices at all stores, but the lower price would apply at the tills.


A spokesman said differences in Christmas pudding prices could be because there are two different 'large' sizes.

Retailers in Oxford Street are predicting a record Saturday today.

Shopping experts Springboard say the first weekend in December is traditionally the busiest of the year.

Jace Tyrrell of the New West End Company said: 'We conducted research with 2,000 shoppers and 74 per cent said they were looking forward to taking a "recession vacation" over the next four weeks, which is good news for retail.'

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