Tech professor creates Ikea value index for ‘rip-off Ireland’

29 Jul 2009

The grand opening of IKEA Dublin earlier this week was met with as much suspicion and assumptions of a ‘rip-off Ireland’ in action as it was with excitement.

Eager shoppers did their internet homework and were coming back with comparison prices between IKEA Dublin and IKEA Belfast showing that sterling to euro conversion aside, the prices of some items were considerably higher down south.

Barry Smyth, professor in the School of Computer Science and Informatics at University College Dublin, and Director of CLARITY (Centre for Sensor Web Technologies), decided to do some serious price comparisons by writing a computer program (Ruby script) that took and compared the prices contained in the online catalogues for IKEA across Europe and the US.

Smyth said there was “no shortage of examples to support the theory that Dublin shoppers were paying significantly above the odds relative to what a short journey to Belfast might offer”, but that the worry was that most of us “adopt a confirmation bias to justify a rip-off assumption”.

And while there are surveys proving this theory, they only compared as few as 17 products. Smyth compared 1093.

Smyth’s program got to work comparing prices for common product codes across 12 stores (Ireland, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Spain, France, Austria, USA, and Canada) and the preliminary results are, as Stephen Fry might say, quite interesting.

For those expecting to be proven right about rip-off Ireland they will be in a state somewhere between smugness, Schadenfreudeand slight disappointment.

The average product price for the Dublin store is €42.60, which is 17.57pc more expensive than the cheapest average product price for an IKEA store (€36.23), which is in the US.

However, overall we come in at just over 8pc more expensive than the IKEA pricing across the UK.

While that sounds expensive, here is something to consider if you are contemplating the trip to Belfast: “If you are currently living in Dublin then you are about 150km from the Belfast IKEA store,” Smyth said.

“The round-trip to Belfast will cost you about €25 given an average price of €1.25 per litre (300km total using 20 litres of petrol).

“Given that, on average, the Dublin store is 8pc more expensive than the Belfast store, then, all other things being equal, you will begin turn a profit (absent your time) if you are expecting to spend at least €312. Below that your instore savings will probably not compensate you for your fuel,” Smyth explained.

This is not to say that IKEA Dublin is price competitive. In fact, the average product price is only 3.58pc less than the most expensive IKEA store, which is located in Finland.

To add to this, Smyth looked at the spread of prices on a product-by-product basis. In the US there are 470 products that cannot be bought for less elsewhere, while the UK has 146 ‘best value’ products. Ireland? A mere 15 out of the 1093 products in the complete IKEA collection.

By Marie Boran