Wednesday, March 21, 2007


It's finally reached that point. I bought ingredients to make cupcakes at Sainsbury's and actually gasped at the price as I handed over my card. £27. Twenty seven pounds for some butter, eggs, flour and sugar. A similar thing had happened in Ikea when they didn't have the shelves I wanted in stock so I just picked up a few random useful things on my way round, like spatulas.
It came to over £70.

And then of course having just been in New York you can't help, when confronted with the £27 for cupcake ingredients which you then have to actually go and make yourself, think: that's nearly $60...I could have flown some in from Magnolia Bakery for that price.

I know I am often wittering on about this difference in pricing when I go to Paris and I'm hardly an economics whizz, but today, I have figures!

In New York I had the lovely experience of careening round the Barney's beauty department grabbing anything that took my fancy. When it was all totted up the bill was less than a traipse around Boots to get some boring essentials.

A small sample of transatlantic beauty swag:

Kiehls' Olive Oil Hairpak - US price: $25, UK price: £23

Kiehl's Abyssine Eye Cream - US price: $30, UK price: £27

Kiehl's French Rosewater - US price: $13, UK price:£13

Chantecaille Future Skin- US price: $65, UK price: £49 - that is ridiculous, who has that kind of money?

I know, the pound is too high, and twenty five dollars to an American is the same to them as twenty five pounds to us. But is it really? (BB feel free to impart wisdom.) Kiehl's stuff basically reflects the exchange rate exactly so I'm thinking they're not exactly ripping us off on purpose. I have emailed them to ask what the deal is but I haven't heard back. But Chantecaille? Naughty. I was talking to a make up artist who said that it's cheaper for her to fly to New York for the weekend and re-stock her kit with Nars etc than it is for her to buy supplies in London.

So then how do British beauty companies whose prices are just as high justify that? They don't have to import the stuff, are they just keeping prices artificially high? I am determined to get to the bottom of this because British girls deserve to buy nice things without "skinting theirselves" as my car mechanic would say.

So there, I am living in a country where we're constantly stocking up on luxuries we can't afford here when we travel, then coming home and paying luxury prices for bog standard basics. No wonder American women look so well groomed compared to us.
So next time you see a typical British woman with patchy skin, parched hair and ragged nails take pity. She just hasn't been out of the country for a while.

I, on the other hand will be all moisturised and sparkly for the next month at least, or until the Kiehl's magic runs out.

And then we get onto the Marc Jacobs syndrome. I don't want to kick the poor guy when he's down (get well soon Marc!) but in London (like everywhere) everyone clamours for all things Marc. It is very exclusive and very, very expensive, like £800 for a mainline (oops, bad pun) bag.
MJ is basically, like all the beauty products I now have lined up in my bathroom from Barney's, out of most people in London's reach. And yet, it sells out, again and again. Compare that with New York where in both Barney's and Saks there were rails of MJ sale racks and the actual stores (the Bleecker Street ones) were just plain weird to girls used to it all being displayed beautifully. Racks stuffed messily with merchandise, then the accessories shop we thought was selling fakes at first, with big buckets full of Marc Jacobs mirror compacts for $10 each. "Why didn't you get me one?" you're thinking. Because they were all scratched and most of the clasps didn't work - all they needed was a Made in Taiwan sticker.

So there's the other side of the coin.

I was once having a conversation with a woman in Paris about why the shoes by a British designer I was buying from her were less expensive there than they were in London from the designer's own shop. She said that if the price wasn't high enough, London girls wouldn't buy it.
I told her she was mad (at least in my head I did, I probably just gave her a funny look).
I would love to think that I like things for the piece and not the label every time but when confronted with Marc Jacobs piled high and sold cheap in every style and size, honestly?
It was all confusing and jumbled and its allure was instantly lost to me.


lottie said...

Argh, and I buy my Kiehl's in Covent Garden. No more. Based on your calculations it will be much cheaper to have a friend in the States send stuff over for me. Or indeed embark on mini-break shopping myself. Take that, British high street!

Mrs Fashion said...

I totally agree that we get a rough deal in the UK - but £27 for butter, eggs, flour and sugar... I could understand that in Waitrose but how many packets did you buy?!

Mrs F x

Lola is Beauty said...

Well, ok Mrs F there were a couple of packets of white green & blacks chocolate in there too, but that's all! And it was all for the cakes...

Mrs Fashion said...

Oh, those bars of Green & Blacks always send my bill sky high too! Bet your cakes taste delish...
Mrs F x

l'embrouillamini said...

I always feel that everyone else gets a better deal. Par example, in the UK pay 90p or something for a manky mass-produced jam donut from Greggs (served by a blatantly unhygienic moron) OR in Paris pay one euro for a scrumptious macaron meticulously boxed in exquisite packaging and served by a polite and helpful staff member. I know which I'd rather have. Then again, I might be psychologically biased.

Anonymous said... is all relative.
sure there are some expensive cities around the world and some products are just plain expensive regardless....but I have found amazing bargains in paris (found a princess tamtam bra for 3 euros, par exemple), nyc (found a brand new Diane von Furstenburgs's wrap dress for 20$) and london (can't remember anything off hand...). always go a bit outside the "city's centre" and voilĂ ...less expensive.

Annie said...

Luxury goods (handbags, beauty, shoes, whatnot...) are priced really high because, yes, they know we will buy them regardless of the price. In fact, for certain demographics, the higher price makes the item more exclusive and therefore all the more desirable.

I just wrote a post about this last week: "Our Stinky Semiotics" about how the prices are getting really out of hand, yet the demand is ever-increasing. You can read it here if you like:

But Claire - I feel you - Britain is just out of control! I know the pound is strong and everything, but to me it seems like it's stronger than Mr. Universe hopped up on steroids! Can an economy be too strong? Maybe so...I don't know how you all live there and afford it. San Francisco is bad enough!

Anonymous said...

Lola, you have some homework to do :

Bergdorf Girl said...

interesting post. i feel your pain when i go to london, one of my fave cities...comign from nyc my money feels like its worth so little, everything costs nearly double, and there is SO much to want.

funny re: the MJ trinkets, I did a post on them in early write that all they need is a "made in taiwan sticker", actually you're right they are all made in china, which was my rant on the whole thing. cool that someone else picked up on how weird those items are...and i live in nyc.


gracia said...

Does this help?

Kiehl's Abyssine Eye Cream $74.00 (Australian)

see you, g

Serena said...

Intriguing. I had no idea.

hallaren said...

I have a Kiehl's right here in Princeton, New Jersey. They give lots and lots of samples, too.

Check your prices. Might be cheaper to buy it in Princeton and ship it to you in the UK.