Thursday, 25 November 2010

No Gerry, it's not just GST ...

I've periodically done a fairly simple analysis of the comparative costs of buying books in Australia from a physical shop versus a virtual store overseas, most recently last August.

Recently here in Australia we've had a political stoush about whether the $1000 limit for GST free transaction is too high.

Now, maybe we're unusual but we don't buy a whole lot of big ticket items. From anyone. Sure we bought ourselves a flat screen TV and a data recorder from a store in Canberra back in January, and I bought a laptop online from an Australian vendor but that's about it.

What we do buy online from overseas are books and gizmos (oh and clothes sometimes). And in most of these transactions freight is a significant part of the cost. And the reasons we do this are:
  1. Choice and availability
  2. Cost
Yes, it can be cheaper to buy from overseas, but I fail to see why a book ordered from a second hand bookseller in the US or UK should routinely be half the price of one from a comparable Australian reseller, and that's including freight costs. Or why a book from Amazon or BookDepository cheaper, sometimes a lot cheaper, than one from the Borders or Dymocks stores in the Canberra Centre.

The same goes for gizmos like kvm switches and sd card players. Basically if I can buy a new usb computer mouse from an electronics shop in Hong Kong for $10 including postage, yet pay $25 in an over the counter transaction in Canberra for the same product that's not just GST that's making the difference in cost.

The sad fact is that a lot of retailers sell a poor range of overpriced items, and that they can't compete.

Retailers might argue about how we're only 22 million people on a continent the size of the continental US, but we're not uniformly distributed, in fact three quarters of us live in the big cities in the South East, which should ease rather than complicate logistics.

So, who's up for a bit of competition?

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