How to Shop All Over The World From Your Home And Save!
The info I'm about to share with you is true for shopping any country in the world. In my situation it was the United States, but even if you live in your home country, have taste for certain brands that aren't available there, you will certainly find some helpful information below too.
Here is a bit of background to help you understand how the need occurred. My home is in the USA, in the beautiful Washington State to be exact. However, life has brought me to Russia, where I have been living for a few years now for work-related reasons. I have two kids who are here with me. Being boys, they go through clothes like crazy and I have to constantly shop for more. My favorite children's clothing store has always been the Children's Place (I'll refer to it as CP in this story): I find that this brand fits my boys the best, lasts longer and is very comfortable to wear. Unfortunately, there are no CP stores in Russia. So I've been trying out different ways of shopping this US store and getting clothes delivered to me in Russia. Today I believe I can safely say that I've tried them all, namely:
In an attempt to avoid international delivery altogether, I have also tried finding clothes locally that would be of similar quality and fit, so we might as well include this method into our comparison chart.
For starters, let's cross option #1 off the list, as not everyone has friends or relatives in the USA. For me getting the money over to my friends so they could pay for shipping has become a problem, therefore I'm no longer using this route.
Let's go through the other options one by one.
CP's International Shipping Service
Children's Place partners with a company that offers shipping to a bunch of countries worldwide, including Russia. You have to pick your destination first and then start placing items into your shopping cart. The reason for that is that prices are HIGHER when you shop with Russia set as your destination. I have found that the difference can come to as much as 30%. As if that weren't enough, you can't use coupons or rewards when shopping CP from outside of the USA, and I usually save at least $10 or $15 using coupons. The shipping fees seem pretty reasonable, but the price difference and lack of coupons eat up the savings. What was a total deal breaker for me is the fact that only credit cards are accepted when shopping this way, no PayPal.
Local International Shopping Service
There are numerous services in Russia that help you shop foreign stores and get stuff delivered to you. I did my research and found one that had the best terms and lowest fees. I placed my order back in November of 2016 and paid the full price for goods, services and shipping before anything was purchased for me. As I am writing these lines, it is late April of 2017 and I still don't have one of the items from my order. As it turns out, the service's US forwarder may pack items purchased for one shopper into different packages, as they pack a few boxes at a time. My order ended up divided into 3 portions. I received one in early February, another one in late March and the last item is still en route. I guess I got "lucky". The service charges 16% in fees and about $3 to $5 per item for shipping. That can come to quite a bit: a $7 T-shirt ends up costing $11 or more. But it's mostly the long wait that makes me think I'm not going to use this service anymore.
Shopping within Russia
Salaries in Russia are quite a bit lower than in the USA and there are lots of inexpensive clothes sold everywhere. Clothes from China and Central Asia are usually the cheapest and are often of poor quality. I did try finding apparel that would be equal in quality and style to the Children's Place clothing my family is used to, and I found some really great brands that are sold in Russia. However, prices on what's considered premium apparel in Russia aren't that friendly. A pair of decent boys' jeans can cost $30, $40 or $50. And I'm not talking about anything really fancy, just stuff that's similar in quality to Children's Place. I do go this route now and then, but I can't afford to do it too often.
The last option, and as it turns out the winning one, is Parcl.com If you haven't heard of it, that's okay. I hadn't either until I came across the name in my search for a faster way to get stuff to me from the USA. Parcl isn't just any forwarding service. It is basically a website where forwarders from different countries sign up to bid on orders and shoppers can find a forwarder in almost any country. There are quite a few forwarders in the USA, so I had plenty to choose from when I placed my order there.
I was actually surprised when the shipping cost quoted by a forwarder was lower than the quote I got on usps.com even though it was for the same service - International Priority with insurance. I did choose to pay for additional services because I wanted to be sure I'll get exactly the stuff I ordered. I paid about $13 total for the forwarder to check every item and verify the sizes and styles with my list. What was great about using Parcl is that I got the same privileges I'd get shopping the store from the US. That includes being able to use discount coupons, free shipping to the forwarder's address and the lowest prices available to US shoppers only. Another thing I liked about Parcl was the fact that there was a live person in the USA: I could discuss order details with them, tell them exactly how I wanted things packed and what I wanted listed on my customs declaration. I loved the experience so much that I have since placed 2 more orders through Parcl: one for ink cartridges for my US-bought printer and another for some gifts for my Russian friends. These were all placed at different times, otherwise I could have combined all of these into one package and saved a lot on shipping. My Children's Place package shipped using Parcl arrived to me within 10 days (yes, less than 2 weeks all the way across the globe!) and everything was packed just the way I wanted.
Besides the fact that with Parcl I paid less than using any of the other three routes and got my things faster, I've got other reasons to recommend this service. The experience of dealing with a live individual on the other end of the globe (who was extremely helpful and accommodating), being able to shop several stores and combine all my buys into one package, the fact that you stay in full control throughout the shipping process (getting to pick the forwarder, the shipping method, what to write on customs forms, etc.) - all of these things have helped me decide that from now on I'm only using Parcl to ship my US buys for me. I'm really glad I found them. So if you are in the same situation, needing to get things shipped from stores in other countries, do give Parcl a try.