Holiday shoppers increasingly look abroad
In search of deals, money goes to Germany or online
Posted: December 14, 2011
While holiday shopping is in full swing, increasingly cost-conscious consumers have turned their eyes abroad in search of the best deals. This has led to a flood of shoppers crossing borders into neighboring countries and increasing use of the Internet to find bargains abroad while bypassing import tariffs, at times.
The flow of crowns outside of the country for Christmas presents is pushed by the lower selection and quality of goods available in the Czech Republic, consumer rights advocates say.
"Recent research by various media has shown some groceries in the Czech Republic may be of poorer quality than in the so-called Western countries," said Ondřej Tichota, spokesman for the European Consumer Center in Prague. "This can be one of the two reasons why people from border regions like to buy especially in Germany; the other reason is that the prices of groceries are usually lower than here."
Recent reports surveying goods on the Czech market have found significantly higher prices for electronics, particularly mobile phones, than in Western Europe. A recent report by the daily Hospodářské noviny that compared the cheapest groceries in Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic found that goods from Western Europe were of significantly higher quality; for example, ketchup and jams had greater concentrations of fruit, and sausages had higher-quality meat and were often cheaper.
"For shopping online, electronics are a good example of where to find lower prices for the same goods that one can buy in Czech shops," Tichota said. "German traders are also said to provide a wider range of choice when it comes to clothing, for example."
As highlighted by multiple surveys, the Czech Republic has the strongest online shopping presence in the CEE region, with about 54 percent of Internet users shopping online, according to a study by market research firm GfK.
Though just 2 percent of domestic shopping involves the purchase of goods from abroad online (as compared with the European Union average of 9 percent), its growing prevalence has drawn into focus the ability of online shoppers to circumvent taxes on imports. For example, in April, a new 20 percent tax on imports from non-EU countries valued at more than 22 euros was introduced, and now Czech Post and customs offices say they are backed up by items shipped to online shoppers who may have falsified paperwork.
"The trend in undervalued shipments is about 50 percent of those shipped from the United States and 90 percent of those shipped from China," said Martina Kaňková, spokeswoman for the General Directorate of Customs.
Those shipping the items often falsify invoices or just lie about the contents of the box and its value on the customs paperwork, she said.
Czech Post sends packages with suspicious paperwork to the customs office for inspection. Since the additional tax was added, the number of boxes transferred from the Czech Post to the customs office has increased 300 percent. It is expected that because of the need for extra precautions, many shipments could be delayed until after Christmas.
Meanwhile, the flow of Czech Christmas shoppers to other countries is as strong as ever. According to a survey from GE Money Bank, around 30 percent of Czechs go shopping in neighboring countries, mostly Germany, but also Poland, Austria, and even further afield to Hungary.
Czech Railways (ČD) has added a number of booster and Advent trains to Dresden for shoppers that increase daily passenger loads by the hundreds during the holiday season, said ČD spokesman Radek Joklík.
"During the Christmas period, the number of passengers going between Liberec and Dresden increases by tens of percentage points compared to normal operation," he said.
A new schedule for a booster express train from Liberec to Dresden was added this year, leaving at 7:30 a.m. and leaving Dresden at 4:30 p.m., and express trains were added for the Advent Saturdays and also on the Sundays of Dec. 4 and Dec. 18, Joklík said. These were in addition to a schedule of Christmas trains between Ústí nad Labem and Děčín to Dresden.
"[Last year], there was considerable interest in these Advent trains, especially on Saturdays," Joklík said. "The trains have a capacity of 300 seats, and last year on Saturdays, the trains were filled 75 percent, or between 200 and 250 passengers."
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Tags: czech republic, czech business, czech business news, retail, christmas shopping, dresden, prague business.