Don't you just love shopping online?
We live in such a connected world, at the click of a button, we are shopping on the other side of the world.
A long time ago (or it seems that way) Australians were limited to what we could buy in our local stores. But now, we can buy anything we want - wherever it is sold.
Right? Well, sort of.
It just depends on what you want to buy.
There is one price if you live in the USA, and another price if you don't, and this is very apparent in the world of outdoors goods.
A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the fate of a major department store touched on this with the following comment...
"International industry experts have been marvelling at Australia for years. Local retailers - department stores in particular - sell goods at prices that much of the rest of the world only dream about.
In international retailing circles, Australia is often referred to as ''Treasure Island'', where the prices at which we mug punters buy goods are far higher than those in most of the rest of the world. And this is why ''price harmonisation'' is the term our retailers hate to hear."
Examples of recent purchases we considered:
- Want to pick up a North Face fleece (on sale, outlet store in USA for half the price you get here)? Sorry. Breach of the retailer agreement with North Face to post it to us.
- How about a Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Mattress Large? Pay around $300 in Australia, but pick up one in the USA for $129. Want that shipped to you? Not likely - breach of agreement with Cascade Designs, parent company of Therm-a-rest.
- The MSR Hubba Hubba Tent can retail beween $430-800 in Australia. I can pick one up for $300-330 in the USA....but I can't get it shipped directly to me.
The list of outdoor manufacturers who don't allow their items to be shipped to Australia include (and this is just a selection)
- Black Diamond
- Canada Goose
- Cascade Designs
- Gregory Packs
- Lib Tech
- Liquid Force
- Outdoor Research
- Petzl Charlet
- Roxy Snowboards, Boots, and Bindings
- Seal Line
- Sea to Summit
- The North Face
- Vibram Five Fingers
- Western Mountaineering
Whilst I do understand the reasoning behind it - to protect those who sell their brand overseas - it is very frustrating to see one inflated price in the stores here, and another bargain price via the internet. Even with shipping costs, it still works out cheaper.
We have the money; they have the excess product - is that not a match made in retailer heaven?
Of course, there are ways around it - just use a USA address or company that provides one, and ship to them and they will forward to you. That is an option that many use - so we can still get the products we want regardless of the embargo on international shipping of said manufacturers. And it is happening - a lot.
But wouldn't it be nice if we could just go straight to the retailer ourselves without restrictions? After all, we are still getting the product that is banned from being shipped to Australia directly. The only thing that is different is that this item made an extra stop at a USA address.
It just doesn't make sense!
Some of the sites that provide US addresses for shipping are
Another option is for Australian retailers to be more competitive, but with taxes imposed on them for imports, high rents and staff wages, it may not happen any time soon. Unfortunately, the only time we can get some of the above items from Aussie suppliers is when they are heavily discounted (and frequently, still more expensive that US prices).
I really would love to buy from local retailers but reality is that I can't afford some of their prices on the brands I am shopping for.
One site that I have come across in Australia that does stock a lot of the above mentioned brands, at some of the best prices I have seen in Australia is www.hiking.com.au. Maybe there are a lot more - just need some advice from you, the reader, on those.
There are US outdoor sites that do ship lots of items internationally - but it really does depend on that brand name.
I did note that there are some very dodgy sites out there that say they sell and ship eg North Face, but if you look closely at website with terms and conditions, the English is atrocious, and doesn't make sense at all. So they would be selling knock-offs from China or the like. I could see how easily some people may be seduced by these sites out of desperation but if you use them be prepared to kiss your money goodbye.
Of course, one way to avoid knock offs being bought to unsuspecting non-US citizens, would to be allow such purchasers the option to buy the 'real thing'.
Knock offs and dubious sites would not flourish as much, because the buyer now had legitimate access to the genuine product.
Until things change, I have no choice but to look around for a product similar to the one that cannot be shipped or get my wanted products shipped to a friend's USA address so they can forward to me.
On a positive note, the New York Times reported this week that such brands as as Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Abercrombie & Fitch and Nordstrom are opening their doors to overseas markets where there is faster online sales growth compared with the more saturated US market.