We bought ours from a French Chandlers at half the usual UK price (£65 2 years back). Their Offshore Pack actually contains two more red handflares than the UK one, as well as the usual smoke and parachute flares. The instructions on ours are in English as well as French and they are Solas Approved, made I believe in Spain. OK so they are in a plastic box not a waterproof bottle, but we already had a collection of those if needed.
Try any of the chain chandlers like Accastillage Diffusion, Big Ship or U-Ship, there are branches in every Channel port.
Thanks for that. We're going over to Normandy and Brittany soon, so perhaps we'll wait...I did a search on those French chandleries you mentioned and, as you say, they seem to be selling the 'Offshore' pack with an extra two red handhelds (€128 vs £119.95 marinestore.co.uk). However, I see that the UK RORC pack contains 6 red handhelds, 2 orange smoke, 4 red paras, and 4 white handhelds for £129.95 (marinestore.co.uk) which sounds like a fair price? I can't see the RORC packs on sale on the French websites which seems strange.
We are also going to the Channel Islands (St Peter Port) - I wonder if they are cheaper there?
The prices you mention seem higher than we paid which would be nearer 100 Euros, maybe it was a special offer then. The standard UK pack used to contain just 4 handhelds versus the French 6 which is to comply with their regs. The White flares are only in the RORC packs here not in the Offshore Packs, personally we don't carry them anymore but do have a huge 2 million CP handheld spotlight.
Channel Islands prices will be VAT free but wringing a discount out of them is hard so often they end up more expensive than VAT paid here!
I have been buying flares in France for years, and in fairly large quantities for sailing school use. French national regs require virtually every boat of any kind to carry flares. Regs dictate how many are needed for each size of boat and category of how far offshore. Hence there is a large market, and prices are fairly standard.
I bring them home in a boat or on the car ferry with the cab sauv.
I've bought Pains Wessex Offshore Packs, in yellow box, in a French chandlery for approximately half the UK price. At LIBS a few years ago, I asked the PW guy "Why so much cheaper in France?" He shrugged and said "Marketing."
So, on your next wine run, load up with flares and sell 'em to your mates at the club.
The ones that I bought are all marked Solas Approved and were Spanish made I believe, with instructions printed on them in English too.
I know we Brits tend to think that all such foreign things must be substandard to be so much cheaper, but we should remember that the French (in particular) have huge numbers of leisure sailors and charter boats as well, so their market is much bigger. Unlike here in the UK where flares are advisable but not compulsory, in France they are compulsory and the numbers/types carried must match the category of navigation the boat is approved/set up for, hence they are sold in greater numbers. Also they are not supplied in the expensive screw neck containers but in non-waterproof plastic boxes. Not really a problem for us as we already had existing screw cap containers but anyway it would have been be easy enough to seal them in poly bags inside the supplied box.