With a drop in sterling, now is the time to bag a Brexit bargain
Published 21/10/2016 | 02:30
They called it the financial equivalent of 'fat finger'. The sharp 'flash crash' that currency traders woke up to last week which briefly showed sterling touching parity with the euro, was down to computer glitches, apparently.
Well whether or not that's the case, it has recovered from its fright, albeit only marginally. Valued now at around €1.11 it has been a heady drop from last year's November high of €1.43 and remains extremely unstable as Britons try to work out exactly what they voted for.
For us, it means shopping in or visiting the UK has never been better value. Whether it will remain so after Britain actually leaves the EU - a process that will take up to two years - is not quite so certain.
While we're all advocates of buying local, sometimes a bargain is so good, you need to snap it up. Popular fashion websites like ASOS, Ted Baker and Debenhams have been keeping customers click-happy as they save up to 20pc on identical items available here while sites offering bigger ticket items like bicycles, computers and televisions are also seeing an upsurge in Irish customers.
As Christmas approaches, others will be tempted by a trip 'up North' to shop for booze, where lower VAT and excise duties add to the already attractive prices, causing headaches for retailers near the border. For many it's not worth the trip though, when the journey times and hassle is taken into account, but those having a party, or buying in bulk, will consider that a small price to pay.
The big temptation is to go online as it is simply so easy, but beware: a bargain is only a bargain if you are genuinely paying less.
A 'Liberty' dress on sale in Monsoon, for example, selling for €182 in Irish stores, retails normally for £119 in the UK. That currently results in a saving of €43.19 or 24pc. A Raleigh performance bike priced at €499 in Chain Reaction Cycles is £323 in Britain, or 25pc less at the moment, while an Apple iPhone SE 16GB which is €499 here, can be found for £359 online which corresponds to a 16pc drop at current exchange rates.
Here are the tips to bear in mind to make sure you really are getting a better deal.
Shop on sites where you are allowed to pay in sterling on a drop-down menu. Paying in Euro (or by clicking the Irish flag symbol) may involve an impure exchange rate, one that includes a 'cushion' for the retailer - not an unreasonable approach with their currency in such a state of flux.
Buying directly in sterling, and allowing your own bank, via your credit card, to do the exchanging of currency, means you'll get the actual rate applying that day, rather than one with the retailer's safety net added.
If you're unsure, or want to buy in euro, you can check the rate price you're being offered on a site like xe.com, which changes minute by minute. If you find it's not as good as it should be, then select GBP before committing.
Don't forget to add shipping charges as normal before committing credit card details.
Some UK branches with an Irish street presence simply will not compromise their sales here by permitting delivery from the UK to an Irish address. It can be annoying to go through the entire buying process only to find this out on the checkout page, so always check the 'Shipping' tab first. It will give geographical limits for postage.
Workarounds have been found however, and using a UK proxy address is the answer.
An Post's 'Address Pal' is one (addresspal.ie). It sets up a virtual address in the UK when you register; the goods are 'delivered' there, but re-routed to your own Irish address for €3.50.
Parcel Motel (parcelmotel.ie) sets you up with an address in Antrim, Northern Ireland, which UK stores will ship to, and it transfers the goods to any one of its handy motel depots in Ireland, typically located in garages and supermarket car parks for an additional fee of €3.95.
In both cases there are limits to parcel dimensions and weight, but you can pay extra to have bigger items delivered.
If you choose to look at big money purchases, than a new car is as dear as it gets. In July, the month after the Brexit vote, there was a 76pc increase in the number of used vehicles imported from the UK, according to the Society of the Irish Motor Industry.
There are dangers, of course. You need to know what you're doing and research is a must. Factor in additional costs like transportation, Vehicle Registration Tax and getting the car licensed here, but all in all, motorists can find that they save, especially on higher specification cars.
For those considering a holiday, sterling's woes mean you can get everything from theatre tickets to accommodation for a lot less. The trick is to pay up front; booking earlier means you lock in the lower rate, for future travel. You can take a risk, of course, but without knowing whether the currency will rally means you can't be certain it'll be as good when you travel.
A pair of best-seat tickets to top West End show 'The Lion King' priced at Stg£174 would have cost €236.64 this day last year. Today, they're €193.14. Add in reduced value hotels, meals and other attractions, and the temptation to take a short break stacks up. Ryanair will allow flights from Britain to be paid for in sterling, but do make sure you're getting a reduced fare before booking.