Cost of Apple products in the US vs UK

I've been wanting to put together a fairly large Apple order for some time now. My faithful and trusty Macbook Pro is 3 years old now, a lifetime for a laptop, and the iPad 2 has been on my wishlist (and my wife's) for some time now. After a lot of research and some opinion gathering on Twitter, I finally settled on a configuration and equipment choice. A MacBook Air (11") for the road, a Mac Mini for my desk, and two 16GB Wifi iPad 2s, one for my wife and one for me. I've included the shopping cart with full specs below.

Once I'd put the order together on the UK Apple website and seen the total with tax and shipping, I had a thought. I'm going to the US in June, I wonder if it would be better to get all this stuff there. So I put together the exact same order, same specs, same equipment, etc on the US Apple website. After I got the total, again with local tax and shipping, I compared the two prices.

I ran the two prices through a currency converter. And promptly spat my coffee out all over my desk. Here's why:

Total order in US Dollars:

UK store - $4607.55 US store - $3787.91

of for my British friends...

Total order in British Pounds:

UK store - £2867.00 US store - £2356.98

The exact same order is nearly a THOUSAND DOLLARS more expensive in the UK than it is in the US. Or a full 500 quid more expensive. I could feasibly fly to New York, get all the stuff at an Apple store and fly back and STILL save money.

This disparity isn't confined to just Apple products, I'm told it's been the same with consoles, video games, software, appliances, cars, etc, etc for years. Is it due to import duty, sales (VAT) tax, or other economic factors.....or is it smart retailers pricing their products at levels the market has and will continue to bear? Either way, ouch.