Retail chains such as PC World, Tesco and Argos charge significantly more on average for IT products than independent IT shops, new research has claimed.
Flying in the face of the logic that buying power translates into lower prices, the big chains worked out nine per cent dearer on average than independents in IT distributor Target Components' latest annual price comparison test.
Target's Shoptalk National Retail Price Comparison study compared typical in-store prices for 65 IT products and services from more than 100 indies with the lowest online price from the big chains. These include PC World, Argos, Maplin and Tesco Direct.
This is the third consecutive year the research found that indies trumped multiples on price, although the gap has shrunk since last year, when it was 10 per cent, and 2013, when it was 12 per cent.
Indies were also found to stock a wider range of goods, on average offering 48 of the 65 items tested, compared with an average of 30 across the multiples. PC World was a notable exception, stocking as it did 50 of the items (although 55 per cent of the indies stocked more).
Target managing director Paul Cubbage claimed the results would surprise most consumers.
"We know from our consumer research that people don't believe indies offer lower prices than multiples, but we can see for the third consecutive year that they do," he said.
"Perhaps more surprising is the breadth of range offered. As a consumer, you're more likely to find the IT product you want in most local independents than you are even in the multiple with the widest range, PC World."
However, Target also warned that excessive discounting among indies could put them at risk, with its annual survey showing that those who do so do not enjoy better sales than those charging higher prices.
Across the 65 products, those in the bottom quartile for price enjoyed sales satisfaction one per cent below the average, identical to the sales satisfaction enjoyed by those in the top quartile for price.
"Those at the highest prices charge a significant premium yet enjoy the same sales satisfaction as those discounting heavily," said John Coulter, business adviser at Target.
"This means price-aggressive indies are sacrificing significant margin in return for no additional sales. They are slashing their profits and potentially putting their businesses at risk."
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