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Christmas Crackers

The Irish Independent
Eddie Lennon, November 25th, 2004

EDDIE LENNON goes searching for the best bargains in Yuletide shopping

IT’S that time of year again when everybody’s thinking what to buy their loved ones for Christmas.

On a range of likely Christmas purchases, we found savings of between €7 and €30 for the exact same item and savings of up to at least €27 for similar items, as the accompanying table shows.

The most extreme savings were by buying online – so it’s not surprising that an estimated that 60pc of people will do some of their Christmas shopping on the web.

However, retailers’ price wars also produce sudden and extreme variations. A case in point is Robosapien, this year’s ‘in’ toy for boys. Yesterday, Dublin’s ToyMaster shops dropped to €89.95 from €109, on a toy that three months ago it introduced at €150. (Regional Toymasters may be more.)

Argos, a few days ago, dropped its price to within 9c of Smyth’s €93.40 – down from €115 and €110, respectively, earlier this month.

Yet, Michael Culloty of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, says: “We don’t shop around. Many of us are money-ridden but time-poor, and decide to buy everything the one day.”

Dermott Jewell, chief executive of the Consumers Association, suggests Irish people belatedly are realising the surprising scope to get cheaper prices. “Growing numbers are travelling abroad, to New York for example, to avail of bargains, especially since the dollar is weak (lately at $1.30 to €1).

“Significant numbers are travelling North and finding great value there. Even those staying at home are more calmly looking around.”

CHRISTMAS STAPLES: If you buy direct from those who raise turkeys or Christmas trees, you can save up to €20 on turkeys and about €5 on trees, said producers who refused to be quoted for fear of openly undercutting the retailers they supply.

A good, large Christmas tree costs €29.99 at Dublin’s Newlands Home and Garden Centre.

According to Joe Flynn of the Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association, “some businesses sell trees at a loss to attract people in. The likes of Woodies and Spar sell them for €25 or sometimes even less.”

Christmas accessories can cost a pretty penny. At Oxfam’s shops in Dublin and Galway, you can pick them up for a fraction of what you could pay, plus it’s all for a good cause.

For example: 16 Christmas cards for €5, hand-embroidered decorations from €2.50; miniature nativity sets from €4.50; six Christmas crackers containing special Fair Trade gifts for €15. More gift details at www.oxfamireland.org.

ELECTRONICS: The Office Complete Box Set costs €41.50, including delivery, at cdwow.com; at HMV Grafton Street it costs €49.99.

Another good website for DVDs is the Australian one, www.ezydvd.com, which sells DVDs from €12.95 including delivery, which takes less than a week. The site also gives away good free gifts from time to time.

You should also check out splashdvd.com and www.dvdzone2.com which have some good offers.

Two interesting price-checker websites, thedvdforums.com and dvdpricecheck.co.uk, are useful chat forums for DVD bargain-hunters.

When buying DVDs, unless your DVD player is a ‘multi-region’ player, make sure they are compatible with your DVD player, most of which are ‘Region 2′ players. Norah Jones’ CD Come Away with Me costs over €20 at HMV in Dublin; but at cdwow.com it’s available for €13. Check out djangos.com for other CD bargains.

Irish websites selling electronic goods at discount rates include elara.ie and komplett.ie, where Sony’s NW-HD1 20GB mp3 player costs €20 less than the €399 paid in Sony shops.

Digital cameras on pixmania.com are far cheaper than in Ireland, ditto at pricerunner.com and kelkoo.co.uk.

MISCELLANEOUS: Books are far cheaper to buy online than in store, but usually only if you buy several at a time.

Otherwise, we found savings on the two of the big Christmas titles almost wiped out by the €3.50 delivery charge, the Guinness Book of World Records 2005 coming in at €6 less than Eason’s €20 on amazon.com and Bob Dylan’s Chronicles autobiography just €1.70 less than Eason’s €20.50.

Amazon’s US site, amazon.com is often cheaper than its UK site, amazon.co.uk, especially now that the dollar is very weak.

Discount shops, such as Reads of Nassau Street, Dublin, offer cheaper alternatives to the major bookstores. There, the Guinness Book of World Records is €17.24, almost €3 cheaper than Easons. And Bob Dylan’s autobiography is €15.74, nearly €5 cheaper than Easons.

Bookbrain.co.uk, described by the Financial Times as “an invaluable site”, compares book prices across 14 online providers.

One contributor to the forum askaboutmoney.com claimed to have paid just €38, with free delivery, for 100ml of Calvin Klein Eternity after-shave from strawberrynet.com, while it costs €63 at Boots.

Going North may be cheaper. We found the Hot Wheels T-Rex Play Set for boys at Toys R Us Belfast for €7.05 less than the €49.95 Toymaster Dublin asks. However, Toys R Us worked out at marginally more for girls coveted Lil Bratz set, at £19.99, than €29.99 here.

Equally, there’s just €1.08 to be saved on Cecilia Ahern’s No 1 bestseller in Eason’s Belfast, compared to Eason’s discounted Republic price of €12.50.

Orla O’Sullivan also contributed to this story.

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