Co-operative online shopping hits the UK

On Letsbuyit.com, prices go down as demand goes up

The traditional British high street shop got another cyber-knock Monday with the launch of the UK's first "co-operative shopping" Web site.

Letsbuyit.com allows UK consumers to team up to purchase goods at knock down prices -- the more demand there is for a product, the lower the price goes. The company claims that it can offer discounts of 20 to 60 percent on a range of branded goods, including consumer electronics, garden and household products, sports goods and Christmas trees. The service has been running in Sweden since the summer.

Visitors to the site can view the range of goods currently on offer, the start and finish dates of the products buying periods, how much of a saving is being offered against the normal retail price, and how much more can be saved with the addition of extra buyers.

While playing down the actual amount of damage the site would be able to inflict on such high street retailers as the Dixons Group, John Palmer, founder and CEO of Letsbuyit.com, claimed that "People [in the UK] have been ripped off for too long, we are providing another channel to provide high quality branded goods."

Users are also able to initiate their own requests for goods. Once a request is made the company finds out the best price for the product and emails all those who have made the same request. Among the goods currently on the site are a Philips DVD 710 for £100 less than the retail price, and a Palm V for £75 less than retail.

Andy Brown, research analyst at IDC, who specialises in the electrical retail market, said although the service would probably be a success, he believed that UK consumers were still wary of the alternative channels appearing for purchasing electrical goods.

"Bartering like this is not really very British," he said, "The UK public still like a lot of handholding and are willing to pay more for this in high street retail [outlets]."

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