It is time. It is time for the Global Online Shopping Post. My in-box is filling up with freakish pre-season discounts. The gift-giving season is around the corner. And “Where’d you get that?” “I got it…online!” is my endless refrain.
Yes, online global shopping brings up issues of consumerism and of global-versus-local. But sometimes I just want a chartreuse dress, or shoes that fit and don’t cost a fortune, or some wackadoo precisely sized jewelry finding.
Think Before You Shop
It’s easy to get carried away and stuck with lemons via online shopping. I try to keep my eye on items that have a good return-on-investment for me. For example, I have an unusual shoe size, so I get greater selection and value when I shop for shoes online.
Still, I’ve bought cosmetics, bed linens, vintage accessories, dresses, fabric, specialty craft items, jewelry findings, eyeglasses, loose gemstones…the list goes on and on.
Important Online Shopping Tips
- Search For Reviews. Many sites now include starred reviews of items. Where this isn’t the case, thank you, bloggers and Facebookers of the world, for reviewing every last item you purchase.
- Use Sales To Your Advantage. Antipodean shoppers, search for and hit those “Sale” and “Clearance” pages. You’ll be ordering discounted items for the previous summer/winter that will arrive in time for your spring/fall.
- Search For Coupons and Discounts To Apply. This is so easy. A Google search for “retailer name” and any of the following words – code, promotion, coupon – may reveal a discount coupon for your order, which you apply for an additional discount.
- How Long Should It Take To Get A Package In NZ? From Asia and Europe: Two – three weeks. Items from Singapore or Hong Kong can come faster than that. From Australia: One week. From the USA: Two weeks.
- Source Gifts For Overseas Folks Overseas. Living in NZ, I order gifts for my American family from USA vendors, and for my UK family from UK vendors. This way, more of my gift budget goes towards the present itself, and less towards its shipping.
- When In Doubt Go A Size Up. Too big can often be fixed, too small usually can’t. This is frustrating if you’ve gone online for size issues.
- For US Shipping, If Possible, Ask For USPS International Priority Mail. This is the most affordable way to get items shipped from the US A- check the rates here. Clothes and shoes aren’t, as a rule, fragile, so this is a good way to go with Etsy and eBay vendors. This box shown below is your friend when it comes to shipping a garment or fabric from overseas.
Behind the cut: how to get items shipped to you, and The List of Retailers, including lingerie, pretty retro dresses, and much much more, plus Buyer Beware advice. When I say mondo, I mean mondo!
Direct Shipping, Ask “A Favor Please”, or Mail Forwarding?
For mail order from the UK, Asia, or Australia, standard shipping is usually OK. For mail order from the USA, shipping costs can be bananas. My experiences have shown me that direct shipping or an obliging mail-forwarding friend is the way to go. Professional US mail forwarding is exorbitant, often $59 for a dress -sized package.
If I am asking an overseas friend to forward my mail-order, I research postage from their country first, then offer to send along the postage cost and a bit extra. I have the item shipped to my friend – perhaps two or three items – and they get combined in a package and sent. If you do this, it is courteous to order your items in the same week, so that they arrive about the same time, and to not overload your friend with too much at once. I will also send my mail-forwarding friends gifts from my country to say thank you again.
By the way, I have recommended “a reasonably priced fashion-oriented/boutique mail forwarding business” as an at-home business idea to several Yankee friends. Nobody’s bitten so far. So if you are in the US and you want to start a home-based business, there you have it. Please let me know.
I have ordered from these retailers, or I know several people who have; shipping was reasonable and timely; and products were good quality. All of these recommendations are places that ship directly to New Zealand and Australia. This list is biased towards the feminine.
- Marks & Spencer – Yes, my petals, Marks & Sparks delivers their famously good underwear down under for a flat 15 pounds. Even a Yankee like me can vouch for their bras.
- What Katie Did – Vaunted vintage-look lingerie (now up to DD for bras). Their delivery cost is a mere sneeze compared to the lingerie prices.
- Secrets in Lace – Even wider size ranges for vintage-look lingere, fantastic colors, deliciously comfortable bullet bras, and plus-size ranges. Rago girdles, too.
- We Love Colors – Fun, sassy, 51+ color range for tights, stockings, gloves, and more. Every year they have about 2 months of free Antipodean shipping.
Petite clothes are clothes that are proportioned for women under 160 cms/5’4″ in height. More about why petite clothes are different here. NZ has almost no petite size clothing, to the point that immigrants are advised “stock up before you get here.”
- Talbots.com – Dressier items. Standard petites and “women petites”, which is plus sized petites.
- LandsEnd.com – Pants, knits, bathing suits. Yes, Virginia, there are petite sized bathing suits. Great item reviewing system.
- EddieBauer.com – Outdoorsy casuals, including rain/storm/snow gear. Again, items get reviewed. I’ve been disappointed with highly tailored items from them, like jackets, so I’d stay casual.
- Ebay.com – Search and see who’s shipping internationally.
- J. Crew is gradually adding European and Asian countries to their direct shipping, but the Antipodes are out in the cold.
Pretty Retro Dresses
What more do I need to say? Perhaps “Pretty Retro Dresses Also In Plus Sizes”?
- Leona Edminston – Smithers, release the hounds and bring me one of their frocks!
- Trashy Vixen – Good reviews from others. I find their rayon blend a bit light for NZ wear but great for an Australian summer.
- Heart My Closet – Custom-made items from an Etsy seller.
- ModCloth – Items can be sized larger than you’d expect. Their reviews for items are fantastic.
- Pin Up Girl Clothing – A huge range of delectable items. They sometimes do free shipping worldwide for orders over a certain value.
- ChicStar is the subject of some debate. Their NZ subsidiary OopsOhMy has been plagued with problems, but ChicStar seems reasonably reliable.
- eBay, again (find your favorite US/UK brand)
- Etsy – Quality vintage shoes. Searching by size isn’t implemented, which is annoying, but the selection makes up for it.
- Endless.com – Part of the Amazon empire. Search by your size, then choose shoes to avoid frustration.
- Book Depository – Beloved Down Under because of this phrase: “Free Shipping Worldwide On All Our Books.” Will this change now that they’ve been acquired by Amazon? Stay tuned.
- Powells – As an alternative to the juggernaut Amazon.
Cosmetics & Optics
- FragranceNet – Reasonable shipping.
- StrawberryNet – Free shipping from their Singapore/Hong Kong(?) location. They carry some American brands I’m fond of, like Paula Dorf. And every box is shipped with a lavender ribbon around it.
- ClearlyContacts in NZ, CoastalContacts in North America – These seem to be the same branch of a major, major eyeglasses/contact lens online vendor. This is where I got my retro glasses from, and the prescription was spot on. Sign up for the Facebook pages and get specials. I want to wash my hands after typing that last sentence, for some reason.
For The Fellas
Reprising some of the other sites: LandsEnd, Eddie Bauer, Clearly Contacts, We Love Colors (yes, they have men’s tie dye). Etsy is under-shopped for guys’ vintage and retro items. And a dapper friend of mine regularly scoops up merino suits and dress shoes on eBay.
The USA is a good place to shop for guys who are bigger/huskier. Slimline gents should seek items from Europe and Asia.
I haven’t shopped there but…
- Asos – Huge selection. Plus and petite sizes. High/fast fashion from the UK.
- Dorothy Perkins – More lighthearted fashion from the UK. Affordable, fun, “not great for long torsos”, petite sizes.
- Anthropologie Is their $50 flat rate to NZ/AU insane? Maybe, maybe not. I know some people are total freaks about Anthropologie. In my early 30s I picked up a few items from there via mail forwarding.
- Shabby Apple – Vintagesque dresses, international shipping.
- DNA Footwear – Lots of cool shoes, again, international shipping.
- If you see a “Free Shipping!” special on a site, that usually only applies to shipping within the retailer’s country.
- Most consumer protection laws lose their effectiveness outside the seller’s country.
- Items can get stolen out of the mail. I haven’t had this happen in 13 years, but it has happened to others. To avoid this, have them shipped to a secure location, where someone is available to sign for them.
- Generally US retailers have more generous return terms than NZ/AU retailers. You take a hit on the return shipping, though. And items from the US marked “Final Sale” often cannot be returned or exchanged.
- I haven’t included lots of places that do ship overseas but have brutal shipping rates. These places only get cost-effective for international buyers if you are purchasing, say, dresses for an entire wedding party, or all your camping gear.
- Lots of US department stores (Macys, Sears, Nordstroms, Overstock.com) now say they have international shipping. But watch out if this is via the shipping vendor FiftyOne. Their shipping costs are extremely high, and there are service complaints.
- Lots of custom-made places based in Asia are currently only shipping to the US. eShakti, I’m looking at you.
- I have heard poor reports of custom-made Loligoth clothing from Japan. Apparently it is consistently sized too small, and there are return problems.
- If you are unsure in the least about international shipping for an eBay or Etsy item, ask before you bid, and get a shipping estimate. Shoe shipping should be about $15 – $25 and shipping for a normal dress about $13 – $20, depending.
- If you are unsure about an item at all, or how you’ll receive it…don’t buy it. Save your money for next time!
More and more NZ retailers are getting into serious online retailing, too. Next year I’ll do a post with NZ links for those of you overseas.