Our secret shopper reveals best online bargains for Saudis

Updated 10 October 2017
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Our secret shopper reveals best online bargains for Saudis

LONDON: A new online shopping platform is about to launch in the Kingdom to rival Amazon.
The $1 billion noon.com online shopping platform has just arrived in the UAE and Saudi Arabia will be next.
But which will offer the best value for bargain-deprived Saudi shoppers?
We sent our very own secret shopper to purchase a basket of goods from Noon.com, and compare the prices with like-for-like products at Amazon’s US marketplace.
The Arab News online shopping trolley included 10 items picked at random and including electronics, footwear, phones and toys.
The results reveal that the upstart noon basket came to $2,024 compared — more than 10 percent cheaper than rival Amazon with a total cost of $2,273.45.
But analysts say the difference may be about noon.com stealing a march on its more established global competitor by offering attractive launch discounts.
Still, the arrival of fresh competition is expected to benefit shoppers across the region that have long been denied the online shopping choice of their counterparts in Europe, Asia and North America.
Noon is a joint venture between Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the Kuwaiti franchise operator MH Alshaya.
The new site launched on Sept. 30 with offices in Dubai and Riyadh.


Brexit bullion: Fear of no-deal triggers Irish gold rush

Updated 1 min 12 sec ago
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Brexit bullion: Fear of no-deal triggers Irish gold rush

DUBLIN: In a vault under the streets of Dublin a pot of gold owned by anxious investors is growing every day Britain edges closer to leaving the EU without a deal.
“They’re worried about a significant devaluation in sterling if there’s a hard Brexit,” said Seamus Fahy.
Fahy is co-founder of Merrion Vaults, a gold brokerage and safe deposit facility in the center of the Irish capital.
Over 2018 — as the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU turned from a scare story into a very real prospect — he has seen a 70 percent rise in clients from the British province of Northern Ireland.
“Customers are taking money — physical money — out of the bank and they’re buying gold bullion with us to store it, and it’s a hedge,” Fahy explained.
There is no equivalent facility in Northern Ireland.
With the border only an hour away it is no long trip to secure peace of mind as Britain risks a split with the EU critics are branding a “cliff-edge Brexit.”
Set in the basement of an unassuming grey office block, Merrion Vaults does not advertise its presence to passersby, marked only with a coy plaque reading “Merrion Private.”
Down an elevator, past a manned security booth and a fingerprint scanner — as well as a hefty metal safe door — is a caged vault, ranked with 3,000 double-locked deposit boxes.
Their full contents are known only to clients. But Fahy knows that inside many are glimmering stashes of gold.
Numerous customers have spent over £500,000 (560,000 euros) on their precious nest eggs.
The most popular items are one ounce (30 gram) gold bars and coins: handsomely polished South African Krugerrands, Canadian Maple Leafs and British Britannias worth in the region of £1,100 (1,200 euros) each.
They have increased in value by around 10 percent in the past six months, according to Fahy’s ledger.
When news of the 2016 Brexit vote broke, gold surged as sterling plunged to levels not seen since 1985.
The result was a historic 22 percent jump in gold valued in British currency terms.
In December, when British Prime Minister Theresa May pulled the parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, Fahy also saw a “big uptick” in demand.
Pundits saw that as the most foreboding indication yet of a no-deal Brexit on March 29.
The prospect of the fallout sinking sterling seems to be making investors skittish.
“In times of crisis you always see what’s called this ‘flight to safety’ — so people go into US government bonds, gold bullion, Swiss francs etc.,” said Fahy.
The future status of Northern Ireland — the so-called “Irish backstop” — is at the crux of the Brexit conundrum and has added particular concerns on the island.
“You often see local events driving local demand,” said Alistair Hewitt, head of market intelligence at the World Gold Council.
But Hewitt said that the Brexit gold rush may have already peaked in the rest of Britain, with “an upsurge of activity” around the vote itself.
“Over the course of the past two years that’s probably petered out a little bit. I think lots of investors have probably suffered a bit of Brexit fatigue.”