- 1. About this guide
- 2. Pros & Cons of Online Fashion Shopping
- 2.1. Pros:
- 2.2. Cons:
- 3. Paying for Your Items
- 3.1 Watch out for:
- 4. Shipping, Delivery and Returns
- 4.1 Watch out for:
- 5. Mail/Parcel Forwarding Services
- 6. Review of Online Fashion Stores
Clothes & Fashion Shopping has never been the same since stores and retailers across the developed world jumped online. Online shoppers emerged as a new community of consumers, and this community has grown exponentially over the past few years, chiefly because of the accessibility, availability and affordability of most online products. Research indicates that online shopping in Australia is on the rise at an annual rate of 12.6 per cent. Only last year, we spent a whopping $9.5 billion online. But what do these stats mean for us buying our clothes & fashion at online stores? After all, buying a camera/videogame/laptop online isn’t the same as buying your wedding dress online. While there are many who regularly buy their clothes, shoes and even their lingerie online, there are those who still hold back in apprehension.
If you’re one of them; tempted to buy online, but can’t get past the idea of purchasing anything without first getting to try them on, then don’t worry- you’re not alone. In fact, you’re probably reading this at the same time as many others would be, and not all of them would have eased into the online clothes & fashion shopping boom yet.
This guide will cover quite a lot. So, check out the table of contents for some quick jumping around.
Through this guide, you’ll get familiarised with the pros and cons of online clothes & fashion shopping: where and how to shop for cheap clothes & fashion online, including plenty of essential tips and strategies to make your online shopping experience pleasurable, hassle free and easy on your pocket. Once you read and follow my tips, you’ll be on top of your online shopping game- and believe me; online shopping is very much like a game! Play it right, and you’ll almost always come out a winner. By play it right, I mean knowing where to buy, knowing how to buy, and knowing what to be aware of- these are the things that I’m going to let you in on about in the subsequent sections. So are you ready? Let’s go!
Online clothes & fashion shopping has plenty of pros, and in its premier form, ticks all boxes of accessibility, availability, and affordability. It also has a few cons, which I shall address later- but no need to fret; these cons can easily be evaded.
If I were to sum up online shopping in one word, it would be ‘convenience’. How easy and convenient it is, to have all your favourite clothing lines and fashion brands right at your fingertips? Forget about having to dress up and drive all the way to the shopping mall, through the traffic, through the rain, storm or the heat! Say goodbye to bad service and annoying salespeople who you’ll most often find a) Busy chatting among themselves before you butt in and get awkwardly stared at for a couple of seconds, b) In a bad mood, because they just hate their job or the boss, c) Have no product knowledge, or d) Follow your every move as if you’d shoplift.
Why tolerate that entire nuisance for just a pair of stilettos? Not worth it! Thanks to online clothes & fashion shopping; you no longer have to put up with traffic delays, bad weather, parking woes, and grouchy salespeople! From the convenience of your desk, bed or your kitchen bench top, at work during lunch hours, or at home in a pyjama- shop anytime, anywhere, at your will- now that’s convenience.
So let’s say you took the trouble of driving through traffic, faced terrible weather conditions and finally did manage to find a parking spot. But you only have a limited number of hours on your side before the stores shut at 6PM- what are the chances that you’ll find your perfect pair of stilettos in time? Some stores may not even have what you’re looking for; while some may have a close match- but you’d be spending a bare minimum of 10-15 minutes in each store, for nothing! (This is risky for budgeting- you get distracted and forget why you came to the store in the first place, thus leading you to buy things you don’t need, only want.)
Before long, you’d have to take a break and fuel that growling stomach of yours to keep you going for another couple of hours. Sure, a day out of shopping is fun. But in today’s fast-paced world, why waste precious time when you can browse as many online stores you wish, select your favourite item, type your magic card details and then you’re done in a matter of seconds! Then, you’ll have time to book your massage appointment/manicure-pedicure/or hit the gym. Time is money, and money is time- make sure you spend wise!
When you go out shopping for stilettos, a dress, or a jacket, (insert any clothing or fashion item you wish here) you rarely have a wide range to choose from. Basically, you’re limited- not only to a particular store at a particular location; you’re also limited by time and physical energy. After all, there are only so many stores you can visit on a particular day! Switch online, and in an instant, you’ll find a swarm of national and international, small and large-scale clothing & fashion stores and retailers competing rigorously against one another, hence offering you variety like you’ve never seen before.
Unlike traditional bricks-and-mortar stores where salespeople have a good 10-15 minutes to make a sale within the first few minutes you walk through their doors, online retailers know it’s only a matter of seconds before you close one website and browse another. To entice you, they must offer extensive product choices, easy-to-use browse buttons and search navigation, and up-to-trends merchandise. Online clothing & fashion stores all across the world are vying for your undivided attention, and clearly, you’re the big winner here! Compare items across and between retailers, read reviews, make a selection, and have it ordered in a few clicks. Too easy!
With limited range of clothing & fashion products at unjustifiably high prices, Australian fashion retailers had been ripping us off for quite some time. Their monopoly and profit margins aren’t the only thing to blame. Australia has some of the highest retail rents in the developed world, with a recent study showing Australian CBDs standing second only to New York! Relative to other major economies such as the US and the UK, we have higher rental costs, high labour costs, and basically, higher costs of doing business, as JP Morgan recently indicated. No wonder so many of us take pride on our shopping stopovers at Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris and Madrid! Oh, the never-ending tales of how fabulous fashion in Europe is! And that feeling you get when your friends gasp in awe and envy as you show them your imported fashion bargains…
Well, times are certainly taking a turn around! No longer do you have to hop on a plane to another continent to get the best fashion steals- you simply hop online! There are spectacular savings to be made, with exciting deals and discounts on a great variety of clothing & fashion pieces! What’s more, at present, Aussies can buy goods online from overseas and not pay GST for products under $1000. Online clothes & fashion shopping offers so much more value; it’s not hard to see why this is the future to fashion retailing. It’s known as the online revolution, and it’s empowering us, the consumers.
When online stores and retailers from countries in the northern hemisphere (specifically the two top dogs U.S. and U.K.), get rid of their remaining season stock, bargain sale opportunities also proliferate here in the southern hemisphere. As a result, smart Aussie buyers can hop online for great deals and massive discounts on their winter wardrobe while it’s autumn, and discounts on summer fashion while it’s spring here.
The reason why most women hesitate buying clothes & fashion online is because of sizing and fitting issues. Shops have trial rooms for a purpose- even the tiniest of shops manage to fit in a trial room. Whether it’s just a makeshift one or an area separated by curtains- every clothing store has a trial room, because really, there’s no point buying something that won’t fit. Picture this scenario: you see a gorgeous dress on the store rack; the salesperson gets you one in your size, but when you try it on, it doesn’t seem right. This is all too common – the size is perfect, but the fit isn’t. That’s because you can’t actually figure out if something fits well even when it’s in your size. You have to try it on.
One could argue that the fit isn’t too important. As long as the size matches, why should you bother about the fit, right? Wrong! Ask any fashion designer, and they’ll tell you how crucial getting the right fit is. I can’t put my finger on what the term ‘fit’ means. When a dress fits you, it flatters your body shape in all its uniqueness – all your curves, bumps or flats, without leaving a single spot feeling out of place. You may have your own definition of fit, but that’s how I like to put it. (Send me your definitions in case you do! I’d love to know!)
The fact that you can’t try your clothes on before purchasing them, is the obvious downside to online fashion shopping. That gets worse when and if online retailers don’t follow a proper sizing system. Consumers get confused when they’re a size 8 at one store, and a size 10 at another. You must know your size well, but that’s not enough. When it comes to online clothes & fashion shopping, there are times when you’ll just have to make-do with rough estimates and take a chance. Sounds crazy, I know. But in an attempt to combat these issues, a couple of online clothing & fashion stores have recently integrated virtual dressing rooms on their website. The technology doesn’t require you to download anything- it simply uses your webcam to show you how clothes look like on you in real time. While a digital dress-up isn’t the same as trying them on for real, this is definitely a positive sign of things to come. Experts assert that this technology is like the internet in the mid ‘90’s- what we have today, is only the beginning. Online retail is the way of the future, and it’s exciting to see what other new developments will pave this way. Things are only going to get more convenient!
A majority of women love the idea of taking a day out for shopping- it’s the experience that matters to them. For these women, online fashion shopping isn’t as fulfilling as shopping at a traditional bricks-and-mortar store. The feeling of going into a store, trying on a piece of clothing you are thinking of buying, small-talk with the sales-people, getting tired after a few hours and taking a lunch break, and then coming back home with a bag full of clothes and shoes- it’s a different experience in itself. There’s little denying that retail therapy is best attained through bricks-and-mortar stores, rather than their online counterparts.
While online stores know consumers don’t find shopping over the web much of an experience, they’re looking for ways to change that. With the virtual dressing room technology, online stores integrate social media and allow shoppers to get opinions of friends via Facebook or Twitter, with the aim of turning online shopping into a fun, social and interactive experience. It may be a while before online shopping replicates the offline experience, but it definitely will, in due course of time.
Yes, it’s possible- not all online stores ship internationally. Personally, I get a bit frustrated when they don’t, but I assume it depends on their individual corporate policies. Especially when I bump into a great online store, but find out that they don’t offer international shipping! Arghhh! And then there are some that do not accept foreign credit cards either. However, with mail/parcel forwarding services, there’s no need to get frustrated too long. Read on to find more about mail forwarding services, which I discuss about later in this guide.
Information on payment methods are generally listed under ‘Payment’ or ‘Customer Service’, either on the bottom of the homepage, or the top right hand side. While most stores dedicate a whole page, some simply display logos of acceptable payment options. These options can vary from retailer to retailer, however one or more of the following are accepted:
- Credit Cards: This includes Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express to name a few. Credit Cards are known to be the safest, as they have chargeback schemes and won’t hold you liable for undelivered goods or unauthorised transactions (check the exact terms and conditions of your credit card though- schemes may vary). They also provide for the fastest order processing.
- PayPal: This is another popular online payment option. What I love about PayPal is that you don’t have to share your financial details to anyone online. Opening a PayPal account is free and easy too. If you wish to use this option, simply proceed to the store’s online check out and select PayPal as your payment. Find out more at paypal.com
- Money Order: Some online retailers also encourage money orders, although they may require you to call them before sending your payment. Usually, this should be a toll-free number. Once that’s done, the store will place the order for you, provide you with your total, and give you a confirmation letter. Payment processes may vary from retailer to retailer. Always read the full terms and conditions before proceeding.
Besides checking the description of the product and marked retail price, you should also be wary of warranty details (if any), currency and taxes, and shipping & delivery costs (which I shall be discussing shortly). You should receive an email confirmation upon completion of your transaction, and be provided an opportunity to print your order. It’s a good idea to keep hardcopy records for future reference. It’s also useful to check whether your details are stored or destroyed once the transaction has been processed. Always read the fine print.
Information on Shipping, Delivery and Returns are generally listed on the bottom of the page, listed along with payment options. Often, stores include all of these information under one single heading ‘Customer Service’; so if there’s something you can’t find, keep searching among the tiny fonts in the footer. Keep the following points in mind next time you shop online:
- Shipping, Delivery and Returns policies: These vary from one online store to the other. Many stores provide free shipping, delivery and returns but others may not. It goes without saying that you have to read each store’s policies, terms and conditions before making your transaction. This also includes knowing their complaint procedures, should you experience problems with the items or the delivery.
- Make sure your item is in stock: Most good online stores will have stated stock availability clearly on the webpage next to the product description; but if they don’t, inquire beforehand to save yourself unwanted headache.
- Notification and Updates: Once your items have been shipped, good retailers make sure you’re notified of it. They’ll also let you know if there are any delays or hold-ups. If your items don’t arrive on time, contact them to check the status of your order. This is where a company’s customer service can either shine or fail.
- Upon delivery: Once you receive your items (in good condition), make sure they have provided you with an invoice and a clear and detailed explanation of how to return the items should you plan to. Any extra costs should be mentioned in the returns policy, so always read the fine print before you purchase.
If you plan to cancel your item before it’s shipped, check whether they’ve already charged you for the purchase. Most companies process your payment once the item has been shipped, but there are those that carry it out beforehand. Be wary of this, and know what you’re signing up for.
Unfortunately, not all online clothing & fashion stores ship internationally. If that’s the case with the retailer you want to purchase your next prom dress or leather boots from, no need to worry- there’s more than one way to skin a cat!
Many of you may have already heard about this, but if you haven’t, then let me introduce you to a service that’s made many fashionista’s lives so much simpler- it’s called ‘Mail/Parcel Forwarding’. You purchase an item from any online fashion store you wish, from almost anywhere in the world, and have it shipped to the service provider’s address. Once they receive your package, you get notified by email. They then calculate postage to your country, ask you to complete customs declaration, and then ship it to your address. You’re given the option to select the shipping method- for instance, FedEx, Express, USPS Priority, etc. Costs for such services depend on the provider’s rates and package deals. Make sure you read all the terms and conditions properly before you proceed.
Some providers also offer consolidated shipping- you can shop from a range of online stores and save on shipping by merging it all together rather than from each individual store. In some cases, if a retailer’s international shipping rates are too expensive; you may also choose to do a mail/parcel forwarding service instead, and save a couple more dollars!
Here’s a list of Mail/Parcel Forwarding Service Providers I recommend:
With an aim to make online clothes shopping easier for both you and me, in terms of time, money and convenience, I’ve listed down my favourite online clothing stores for buying cheap clothes. If you’ve never shopped online before, this will be a good starting point. And if you’ve been shopping online for a while now, check out my selection of stores and make the most of them today! Go to Where to Buy Cheap Clothes Online for great fashion clothing at great prices.
Looking for stylish shoes at cheap prices? I’ve done the legwork for you! Make the most of my popular online shoe shopping guide Where to Buy Cheap Shoes Online. You’ll find a list of all the trendiest and the cheapest online shoe stores, based on style, affordability, quality, variety, service and reliability. Read through and make your own pick!
We all know how time consuming finding the right dress for a special occasion can be. Save considerable time and money (and headache) next time you go hunting for that perfect dress for your college prom, cocktail party or a wedding reception. Just read through my list of top online stores for gorgeous, yet amazingly affordable dresses, at Where to Buy Cheap Dresses Online.
I’m forever on the lookout for cheap fashion stores & retailers with great style and variety. I have a couple of online stores that I swear by for my basic fashion needs of Jeans, Bags and Sunnies (Can’t live without ‘em!) For cheap jeans, my post Where to Buy Cheap Jeans Online is a good resource. For cheap handbags, check out my post Where to Buy Cheap Handbags Online. And with summer right around the corner, if you’re considering buying a pair or two of shades, (I believe style-divas need sunnies regardless of the weather anyway!) head to my post Where to Buy Cheap Sunglasses Online.
I update my lists whenever necessary, so although you’ve been there before, make sure you check for updates every now and then.
Wow that was a long write up! As you can see I’ve put quite an effort into putting this guide together. Hopefully you’ve found this guide useful and now are a better informed and empowered online fashionista because of it . If there is even just a single thing you can take away from this guide then my time and effort would have been worth it.
If you’ve found this guide helpful or if you’ve got anything to add, please let me know in the comments below.
Please pass on the link to this guide and help others become better informed savvy online shoppers.
Paige @ FashionablyCheap.com.au