Price is not right at Laura Ashley outlets
HOME furnishings and fashion giant Laura Ashley have defended large price discrepancies which mean Irish customers are paying far more than their UK counterparts for the same items.
Irish shoppers who want to buy a two-seat Kingston sofa from Laura Ashley will pay €1,080 in outlets here compared with a sterling price of £675. At last Friday's exchange rate sterling £675 converts to just €735.
The price differences are revealed in newspaper advertisements here and in Britain for the Laura Ashley "October spectacular" sale. The promotion also offers UK buyers a Balmoral coffee table at £250 while in Ireland the same item is €400. A straight sterling-euro conversion would price the table at €272.
A spokeswoman for Laura Ashley in the UK pointed out that the chain always offered better promotions to Irish customers in comparison to its UK customers and that the company is "comparative to other UK retailers with stores in Ireland in terms of our product pricing".
She added that the company reduced prices in its Irish stores by 8 per cent this year.
Meanwhile, the recent weakening of the pound has placed renewed pressure on Irish firms selling into Britain, according to the Irish Exporters Association (IEA).
IEA chief executive John Whelan said he was "fairly convinced that we are fighting against an orchestrated depreciation campaign in the UK".
He suggested that the reasoning behind the move was to make British firms more competitive by reducing the cost of their products.
The response to this action had to come from Government, politically and in terms of supports for indigenous exporters, Mr Whelan said.
Retailers in on the northern side of the Border are gearing up for a stronger influx of shoppers from the Republic after sterling plummeted to a five-month low against the euro last week.
Derry, Enniskillen and Newry are set to take advantage of the exchange rate.
Cathal Austin, general manager of the Quay's Shopping Centre in Newry, says 40 per cent of their business now comes from south of the Border.
"Our growth has been steady this year and it's obvious people from the south still find it advantageous to cross the Border to shop.
"The value of sterling versus the euro has given us an extra boost, because it extends the range of people prepared to travel on a regular basis because it makes economic sense. We're still getting customers coming from Cork and Kerry and places like that," he said.