Buying Online from Traditional Retailers

I picked up yet another great deal on a Perry Ellis shirt from TJMaxx and looked at the receipt. They have a web site, which offers deals that aren’t quite as good in the store, but are a boon of course if you do not live next to a TJMaxx, or one of their other stores, Marshalls or AJ Wright. With everyone selling online except the designers themselves, who often offer bridge lines or accessories only through their website, it is great to see stores other than Macys and Neiman Marcus sell online.

The early days of e-commerce had us buying clothing from retailers like Bluefly and Amazon, but now with the success of Ebay and portals such as Froogle and Yahoo Shopping anyone with a store out of their bedroom or an old storefront can sell online. While the nearest Wal-Mart is 50 miles away, I can purchase from Wal-Mart’s website, although I would prefer to shop elsewhere online for my money. The only problem with the abundance of online storefronts and the millions of sellers on auction sites like Ebay is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for would be entrepreneurs to differentiate themselves from everyone else. Why would you shop Polo.com when you can buy six shirts on Ebay for the price of one on Ralph Lauren’s site? While sites like Overstock.com are promising shipping on virtually anything for under $3 someone, somewhere, is selling a rare pair of sneakers for $1,000; in which someone will pay $30 to have it shipped to them because it is the chance of a lifetime to receive them.

What to know about online auctions.

  • Credit cards can be used for everything but Pay Pal is the method of choice for Ebay auctions and virtual storefronts. Pay Pal’s website has links to their own merchants who decide to list to their site, and is unusually secure; a valid checking account or credit card is required to set up an account on the website and you actually have to check the account online or otherwise to view the small deposits they make to verify that the account is authentic before you can fully deposit from a seller into the account. Be sure that you never, ever, respond to their emails without first typing their address into the browser and checking it through that method, as opposed to clicking on link in your email as a lot of spoofing occurs from spammers representing themselves fraudulently through Pay Pal. If someone allows you to access the account, or modify it, without your having to log in and give your password get out while you can!
  • The cheaper the merchandise is the more problems you may have, particularly with online auctions where you can get an Armani shirt for a dollar is no one else bids on it. If you are going to use Ebay be sure to check their approval ratings, because no one under 95% is really worth the time and trouble. A lot of sellers are adamant about paying through Pay Pal but in truth, no one who can’t process checks or wait on money order is worth the time because this is simply indicative of the fact that they have a difficult time with processing orders. They will send you merchandise before waiting for the check to clear, or assume that your money order will arrive in 2 days when it really takes five. A good seller will allow you to calculate your shipping price based on the methods the post office uses to send mail, as opposed to setting unrealistic prices that are usually inflated a bit in order for them to make up the difference on the losses they incur by trying to undercut their competition.

What to know about any particular designer’s website.

  • The best places to purchase online are Polo.com and Armani.com. Keep in mind that Polo.com sells a little bit of all of Ralph Lauren’s various lines while Armani only sells his Armani Exchange label online, which may not seem like much, but when you visit sites like Gucci.com, that only sell accessories, and Dolce and Gabbana’s website, which is nothing more than a huge promotional vehicle for the label a clearance item on the Polo website is a godsend.
  • The worst places are any of the so-called “urban” destinations, like FUBU.com or the Phat Farm website. Most of these sites, while they will sell online are sketchy because they are more interested in promoting hip-hop culture and high society, rather than they are in e-commerce. Also, when it comes to the more upscale collections, such as Cut and Sew, they mention the labels but digress to selling cheaper core label merchandise that does not even sell well in the stores.
  • Credit cards are an absolute must.

What to know about electronic stores.

  • These are often warehouses that receive unusual savings on merchandise from closings and other unfortunate mishaps that happen with regular retailers that pass the savings onto you. The prices tend to be unusually good; Overstock typically sells high-fashion dress shirts for as little as $70. You might do better through the auctions, but then again, when you do find an unusual deal through the auctions they want you to buy more than one, or they won’t even take the time out to press the clothing and prepare it for a listing correctly. There aren’t many online retailers that actually attempt to sell the items at full price, except for those found on MSN Shopping.
  • You never really know which designers you’ll find at an electronic store because of the way that they receive their merchandise. The variety is good but if you are into brand loyalty, stick with that individual brand’s website.

If you are willing to fight with other shoppers for a coveted item and aren’t entirely hung up over appearances the onine auctions are for you. The upside to online auctions, other than their low prices, is that they attempt to forge a relationship with the consumer through offering online protection and other interesting services like emailing you listings of merchandise that might be of interest, based on preferences that you set. If you are a conservative shopper that is simply looking for a good deal, yet aren’t entirely hung up over what the brands are, try the electronic stores. You will get a good deal that is typically as good or better as those you usually find in traditional stores. Brand loyalists will find their favorite brands online, but specific websites may only serve the purpose of informing purists as to exactly what is out there, or allow them to purchase items will only serve to temporarily satiate their fashion needs, only to go elsewhere to purchase other items.

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