Professor behind ‘Ikea index’ reveals rip-off Argos

18 Aug 2009

University College Dublin computer science professor Barry Smyth, welcomed IKEA to Dublin by writing a simple program that calculated the value index based on the pricing here in the Republic of Ireland and 12 other countries.

While it turns out that on the whole we are not the ‘rip-off Republic’ we thought we were as regards IKEA, Smyth decided to look further afield to Argos.

Again, this involved writing a computer script that took catalogue items and prices freely available from the Argos Ireland website and comparing them against the Argos UK website.

Although most value-comparison surveys tend to take a sample basket of 10 to 20 items, Smyth decided to analyse a staggering 12,000 items – over half the items listed in the Argos catalogue – in order to get a realistic and accurate picture.

While products from IKEA in Dublin were ‘only’ 8pc more expensive, on average, in comparison to those in the Belfast store, with Argos Ireland, on average, a product is 24pc more expensive that the same product on the UK site.

“These averages disguise a multitude of savings, and there are literally hundreds of products that are 40pc–200pc more expensive in Irish Argos stores compared to UK stores,” Smyth said.

Smyth noted that the Irish VAT rate may be higher than that in the UK, but this still does not explain the hike in prices – the Irish VAT rate is 21.5pc in comparison to the UK’s 15pc, but even after adjusting for this he pointeds out that the average product on the Argos Ireland website is still 17pc more expensive.

“The biggest price difference that I have found so far is €1,124, which you pocket by purchasing a 52-inch high-definition Sony LCD TV up north. This product is listed as €3339.99 on the Irish site but comes in at only €2,213 (£1899.99) on the UK site,” Smyth observed.

Smyth said that