Buy a tech treat from abroad
“The best way to have the most successful product in the Japanese market is to load it up with the most cutting-edge technology available.” This is why a well-heeled niche of early adopters have good reason to look abroad for their hi-tech fix. “There are a bunch of early adopters in the UK, the US and other countries that want the same latest and greatest,” said Krone.
Sometimes, the reason for a long delay in release dates can be simpler. Even huge companies such as Apple have a finite capacity for manufacturing, distributing and supporting millions of devices at once.
There are a bunch of early adopters in the UK, the US and other countries that want the same latest and greatest
“Companies probably figure it just makes sense for them to pick one country and start,” said Krone. “The country they know best is probably the country that they start with.”
Stephen Tomlin, a spokesperson for Chumby, agrees. “There was no particular agenda in our international release schedule,” he said. “Just the expected friction of a smaller company trying to understand and deal with international logistics.” These might include tariffs, regulations and simply finding places to sell a new product.
Sony denies there’s a strategy of deliberately holding back products. “It’s only the availability of retail space with our UK partners and shipping times for stock that potentially delay things,” a spokesperson told PC Pro.
But intentional or not, there’s no doubt that the UK misses out on a good deal of interesting kit, either for short periods, several months or, in some cases, indefinitely.
Even if your object of desire is available in the UK, there can still be compelling reasons to buy from abroad. Simon James, shopping manager at Moneysupermarket.com, sums it up in one word.
“Price,” he said. “Especially with exchange rates, the costs are significantly lower. The PlayStation 3 works out about £46 cheaper if you buy it from the US, for example.”
Visit a Best Buy in the US and you’ll pay around $300 (£203) for a 120GB PlayStation 3. Buy one from Play.com in the UK and you’ll pay £250. Games consoles are far from the only thing you can get cheaper in the UK: Nikon’s top-end consumer DSLR, the D90, sells for $832 (£563) on Amazon.com. Switch to .co.uk and you’ll pay £604 on Amazon’s British site.
“Things sell at a pretty big premium in the UK, so for UK customers there’s that extra incentive to look abroad for competitive pricing,” said Dynamism’s Douglas Krone.
Rules of engagement
So if you’ve made up your mind to buy from abroad, what are the best ways of doing it? The simplest approach is to head to a US retailer’s website. Sites such as Amazon.com and physical stores such as Best Buy are renowned for their bargain prices, service and, beneficially, are located in English-speaking countries.
Try to buy from either of them, though, and you’re in for a rude awakening. Certain items can be bought reliably from Amazon.com, particularly books and DVDs. Add consumer electronics to your cart, though, and you’ll be greeted with a message telling you, “This item cannot be shipped to the address you selected”. Try to buy that PlayStation 3, a 1TB hard disk or a Nikon D90, and you’ll be turned down.