Money Times - July 8, 2014

Posted by Jill Kerby on July 08 2014 @ 09:00



 Aside from Volvo cars, dark crime fiction and ‘telly noir’ police procedurals like The Killing, the best known Swedish consumer brand is IKEA. It’s the place where you set out to buy cheap summer garden furniture and come home with a bookcase, new bedroom lamps, a bathroom cabinet and a couple of bags of frozen meatballs.  And the garden chairs.

The Swedes pay some of the highest taxes in the world and in return receive some of the most advanced cradle-to-grave social services, but this doesn’t leave its citizens with a lot of disposable income, hence the pricing genius of IKEA.

Which might have been why, about 14 years ago, a very clever Swede called Jonas Bonde set up a company called Prisjakt or PriceSpy, a price comparison website that would help Swedes find the right consumer products at the right prices. 

Last week PriceSpy was launched here in Ireland (it already operates in the UK, Norway, New Zealand) with 400 Irish on-line retail operators, and 111,000 products to compare as well as thousands of UK and other international retailers. (There are nearly 675,000 products and 2,000 retailers in the UK.)

The site aims to compare branded products between all the participating retailers, reducing the drudgery out of searching for the best price. 

PriceSpy.ie (www.pricespy.ie) supplies not just the price of the item you wish to compare, with the cheapest price at the top, but supplies comprehensive filtering tools as well:  in the case of a laptop, for example, you simply key in or tick the size, weight, colour and other specifications, and then just those laptops appear.

Aside from the different retailer’s prices, shipping costs are also automatically included in the search result and you can also check user product reviews that may be helpful in making your choice.  

For mobile phone and device users, the PriceSpy app means that you can scan the barcode of an item in a shop and then do an immediate price comparison with other listed retailers.  This gives you the choice of buying the product right there or ordering it on-line.  (Savvy shoppers will ask the shop owner if they are willing to match the PriceSpy price you’ve found elsewhere.)

Another impressive feature on the PriceSpy App is that you can set a price alert option that keeps your search active even if you can’t afford the normal retail price. Once the product you want goes on sale, you receive an automatic alert from PriceSpy that a certain retailer(s) has discounted the price.

The Irish operation currently has eight main product categories - Computers & Components, Lifestyle & Beauty, Audio & Video, Home & Garden, Phones & GPS, Games & Consoles, Sports & Outdoor, Photo & Video but more are to be added.  During my demonstration I asked PriceSpy to show me price comparisons for a 32 inch high definition television set and an expensive but not very popular perfume.


I was surprised not just by the huge difference in price for similar specifications between different TV brands and retailers around the country. The cheapest in one brand category, was from a shop called Hegarty’s in Donegal (including shipping).  And while the eau de toilette I wanted – Joy, by Jean Patou – was only available at one Irish retailer for €101.87, including shipping when we checked UK suppliers, the cost fell to €53.42 plus €12.75 postage (which seemed excessive for a 50ml bottle).


This item isn’t widely stocked anymore and the last bottle I received cost about €100, so the €35.70 savings – is significant. However, comparing more popular perfume brands brought up many more retailers here in Ireland with similarly significant discounting.


Computers and electronics goods like mobile phones are the most popular product lines with many price choices, explained the company, because demand is so large. Ditto for large ‘white goods’ – washing machines, refrigerators and other appliances in which you should be careful to check out all the different features and specifications. This site makes that very easy once you get the hang of it.


Ordinary clothing is not listed yet. Nor are books or DVDs, though the latter is under development. It could give Amazon a run for their money when it is. While mainly a branded good comparison site, it does include huge numbers of branded sports footwear.



The volume of on-line shopping in Ireland is growing exponentially as customers watch their pennies. For smaller retailers, PriceSpy is an opportunity to compete on price and delivery costs with bigger stores here and in the UK. Positive reviews will let them compete on service grounds as well.


Yet not all Irish retailers have proper websites or offer a delivery service.  PriceSpy – and its barcode scanner - is going to change all that – hopefully for the better of both customer and shopkeeper.



If you have a personal finance question you would like answered, please write to Jill at jill@jillkerby.ie






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