I think that's a dollar bill stuck in my craw

1/17/2015 05:34:00 pm

In Japan last year, during our annual pilgrimage to Rinku Premium Outlets, I made a big mistake. Two mistakes, actually.

First, had I known that Under Armour heat gear costs as much as an actual wood-fired heater in Australia, I would have bought more of those shirts. Second, upon testing the North Face Terra 55L pack, I should have just sucked it up and purchased. At the time, I didn't think I needed or wanted a second (smaller) pack, but now that we have decided to become adventurous campers, I realise my thinking was all wrong.

My outdoor adventure essentials...
I already own most of this...and although I don't usually advocate buying clothes too small in the hope of losing weight, I'll admit that I deliberately bought the Marmot GTX pants in M, which was a touch snug, as a motivational tool.

Late 2012
You have heard, haven't you, about how people who shop online are going to ruin the Australian economy?  And how online shopping will cost Australia thousands of jobs and it's all down to the GST threshold for overseas goods being too low. [2014-15: they're still talking about changing the GST threshold]

For someone like me, who has a pathological fear of both crowds and shop assistants, online shopping is mecca. I can browse at my leisure which, since I leave the house each morning before 9am and return no earlier than 7pm, falls far outside normal retail hours. I can answer my own questions, rather than trying futilely to catch the eye of the indifferent and haughty casual worker who doesn't want to help, doesn't know the answer and couldn't give a shit anyway (General Pants, JB Hi-Fi, the George St Apple Store, Bing Lee, any Myer store etc).

Combine a phobia of others with lack of choice and poor service, and the result is that I would much rather spend my time and money browsing the glittering, shiny halls of the interwebs. I am ruining Australia with my love of cheap overseas goods and thirst for a bargain.

I am happy to pay a premium to shop from an Australian store, even though the majority of large online Australian retailers charge higher shipping prices, and take longer to ship things, than the US and UK sites I frequent. Sometimes it's more convenient to buy local. Sometimes I need to try it on or feel the fabric.* Sometimes in the fabric store, where all the assistants are motherly types who remember my name, I like to ask for advice about what colour thread I should buy. And I understand that our wages are higher, and our rent is really expensive. That's all fine. I don't mind paying a bit extra! But there are limits!

Well well... in 2012 I went on to do a detailed price breakdown (and took into account differences ex GST, inc shipping), although at the time it was skewed by the very strong Australian dollar. I've updated the prices and summarised below:

Australia (AUD$)
Nars The Multiple
52 - Mecca Cosmetica
39 - Sephora (USD)
OPI Nicole nail polish
14.95 - Adore Beauty
6.99 - Ulta (USD)
Kate Spade lacey zip wallet
359 - Dstore
255 (AUD) - Nordstrom
Aveda Clove conditioner
39.95 - Aveda AU
23 - Amazon (USD)
Clinique eyeshadow quad
60 - Clinique AU
47 (AUD) - Strawberrynet
Benefit benetint
55 - Benefit AU
30 - Sephora (USD)
North Face terra 55L
280 - North Face AU
143 - Back Country (USD)
Salomon Ellipse hiking shoe
150 (was 200) - Mountain Designs
104 - Amazon

When I first wrote this is 2012, many of my favoured US retailers either didn't offer international shipping or they used Fifty-one/Borderfree, which were expensive and didn't have flat-rate fees. Since then, a lot has changed. Modcloth, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Macys, J. Crew and more offer cheap, flat-rate shipping once you purchase over ~100 bucks' worth of merch.

I am also frustrated by the lack of variety available in Australia. For example, if I want a pair of Marc Jacobs mouse flats, which I do,  I can choose a single style which is sold by David Jones for AU$429. Or I could buy the pair that I really want from Nordstrom for AU$255. Where is the incentive to buy in Australia?
Presumably, retailers moving wholesale stock are paying much less for the privilege of filling up shipping container than a retail customer pays to have one parcel put on a jet, so I just don't understand how this whole system works.

I'm happy to believe the possibility that the supplier charges a premium that has to be passed on, but what about brands that have store-fronts or department store concessions in Australia (eg. in the table above, Aveda, Benefit, Clinique)? Call me cynical, but what a massive surprise that even now Australia has Sephora, everything costs a lot more.

Coming back to my Rinku error, North Face block the sale of their products in the US, so retailers cannot ship to Australia. That pack I want... should have bought it in Japan when I had the chance.

Maybe I will just have to go to America and do some shopping...

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