Ask SmartGeezer: Is it worth buying stuff from the USA?5th May 2009
Originally published 28th February 2008.
Dum da Dum Dum emails SmartGeezer with the following conundrum:
So, now that the course of the American dollar is down, does it make sense to buy clothes from there? Or is the shipping and customs etc. much?
A very valid and astute question Dum da Dum Dum, and not the hairy kind but the wise kind.
Currently, the conversion stands at £1 = $1.5. Not as good as when I first wrote this article but still OK.
Check out this quick example; a pair of Diesel Larkee Jeans. The boys at Sarah Coggles are selling a pair for £130 with £5 shipping. Two minutes research online at Shopzilla finds Zappos flogging a pair of the same jeans for $150, that’s about £100.
We’re getting mugged SmartGeezer! I hear you cry.
Luckily Zappos ship abroad, not all do. You’ll find with US stores it’s a 50/50 shot whether they’ll actually send your stuff to Blighty in the first place. Zappos charge $40 for shipping to the UK, so that brings the price up to $190 which is £128 just £7 cheaper than buying them from Sarah Coggles.
There are other factors to consider if you find a store that sells an item cheaper AND ships to this green and pleasant land:
Returns – do they do returns? If they do then fine, but you’ll have to stump up the wonger to pay for all this shipping both ways.
Sizing – The Yanks size everything differently, usually larger (no laughing at the back). So if you think you’re a Large with Diesel then you may not be with Large Diesel USA style. Shoe sizes are different too.
Custom Charges – so you’re confident the item is cheaper, will fit first time so you’re onto a winner right? Not so, Fabio. Her Majesty will be wanting a slice of that action, about 17.5% Import VAT.
Currency Exchange – may not be a big deal and may not apply in some cases, but money is coming out of your account in Quids and is going into the merchant’s account in Bucks, who do you think is going to stomach the commission rate? Both of you probably. Banks are scheming skankers.
Time – It’s further away so it’s going to take longer to get here, right. Obvious point really.
Do the math – …or the maths. Research just as hard on UK websites as you would on US websites. Remember to account for shipping and customs. Is it actually going to be cheaper to get what you want from the US?
So is it worth buying from the USA to take advantage of the cheap dollar? Yes, if you are confident you’re not going to have to exchange it and the saving is significant so any extra charges means you’re still getting a deal.
I think the worst thing you can do is ‘experiment’ with brands where you have no idea how they size. This is the biggest issue with internet shopping, you can’t actually try it on.
Why not think of other ways to take advantage? Got a relative or friend living in the US? Get them to bring stuff over when they visit. Got a friend going to the US for a holiday? Get them to bring some stuff over, you could get it shipped to their hotel. Go to the US yourself! A cheap shopping weekend to NYC; buy 2 empty suitcases when you get there and do some shopping and maybe get your mates to advance you a small stipend for extra items for them and you could be quids in, as well as a cheeky weekend with the bird.
There’s also a shopping service you could try – OverEasy.co.uk – you tell them what you want, they give you a quote on the total cost of goods and shipping, then you pay them via PayPal and let them do all the shopping and deliver it to you in the UK. It’s run by a Brit living in the USA.
Something else I would consider is to simply be more aware of sales and bargains in the UK. Buying from the USA probably means you want to save money, so just be more on-the-ball with UK clothing sites and save your money for when they have sales, discounts and special offers. There are deals to be had here without the hassle of international shipping.
If you’ve got any feedback or further tips, add them in the comments.