Need-to-know tips and tricks for mastering online shopping.
For many seeking a little retail therapy, online shopping has replaced a visit to the mall. “It’s an issue of convenience as well as access,” says Deborah Fulsang, style journalist and founder of fragrance website The Whale and the Rose. “Between life and work and kids, I have no time, so being able to go online 24-7 is invaluable.”
From the comfort of your couch (and maybe even in your pajamas) you can save a car ride and head to popular online-only destinations Net-a-Porter or Asos. We spoke to Fulsang and Gracie Carroll, founder of style blog The Chic Canuck, to get tips for navigating the world of e-retail therapy and to make your transition to online shopping much more enjoyable.
“Size is always a big fat question mark, and it’s tough when you’re shopping a brand that you’re new to,” says Fulsang. Most sites have a detailed measurements page and even offer tips on how to accurately take your own measurements.
Three sizing tips:
1. “If there is an online chat assistant, then use it to ask questions,” says Carroll.
2. Ensure you’re doing proper size conversions. For example, if you’re usually a size 8, you’re a 12 in the U.K. and a 44 in Italy.
3. Stick to styles that you know work for your body type. If you’ve never looked good in strapless tops, don’t let the picture of the model fool you into thinking this strapless top will be the game changer.
Product quality can be hard to judge from a photograph on a computer screen. Carefully read the detailed descriptions to make sure you aren’t buying spandex when the photo looks like jersey. Carroll not only scans for product details but also checks multiple photos when possible and reads customer reviews. “Reviews are especially helpful. When a price seems too good to be true, it usually is,” she says.
Not all sites offer product evaluations, but the ones that do often include details such as whether the product feels cheap or is transparent, whether it fits true to size and how the product looks on certain body types.
Online sales crop up regularly, so frequently check your favourite sites—especially if you have your eye on a specific piece. If you prefer to receive an email when new collections or sales launch, sign up for brand newsletters. Also make sure to follow your favourite labels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “I do a lot of online shopping because I see things on social media,” says Carroll. Many online shops also honour Black Friday and Boxing Day shopping traditions, which is a great bonus for those of us who prefer to avoid the crowds.
Hidden fees and duty
With many e-tailers, a delivery fee will be tacked on to your purchase. Generally, you can expect a flat rate charge between $5 and $20. Many larger companies offer free shipping if you spend over a certain amount (often $50 to $100), but don’t get tricked into buying items you don’t want just to qualify for free shipping. “At the end of the day, remember that you’re paying for convenience,” offers Carroll. “With big companies, I expect shipping to be inexpensive or free, but when it comes to smaller brands I don’t mind paying the shipping because I know running a small business is costly—especially in Canada.”
When items are shipped internationally, duties may be more expensive. Extra fees can pop up when the product is delivered, especially if the package is large, heavy or expensive, and there’s no dependable way to discern whether or not you’ll be reaching for your wallet at delivery time. Shop Canadian to avoid paying more than necessary.
Our favourite online shops
We regularly stop in at Zara stores, so it’s no surprise that we love shopping online for their wares, too. Although you will pay a small shipping fee, you can make returns in-store or online, no questions asked.
This online shoe shop is a great option when you have trouble finding your size— especially in the case of ladies with size 5, 6, 10 or 11 shoes. If you prefer, you can ship to an Aldo near you so that you can try on the shoes in store before taking them home.
With a huge variety of trendy items at every price point, Asos is one of our regular haunts. With this e-retailer, it’s important to remember that U.K. sizing converts to Canadian. There are no shipping fees, but you may get hit with a duty charge occasionally. For us, Asos’s awesome offerings make the extra charge worth it.
Stores such as French Connection only have a limited number of brick-and-mortar locations in Canada, so being able to shop the latest collections online is a great bonus.
Net-A-Porter has your designer fix when online shopping. The selection of luxury goods is a stylist’s dream and returns are easy. Your package may be subject to duty fees upon delivery.
Anthropologie has a great selection of jewellery, clothing and shoes. Shipping to Canada has a flat rate of $9.95, but you may be assessed for duty fees.
Mango is a great store for trendy pieces at reasonable prices and their returns system is top notch; simply request a courier to come pick up your items free of charge.
Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy
This trio of stores has all your needs covered and offers free delivery for orders over $50. You can return anything you are unhappy with in-store or by mail, and, with sales happening all the time, we’re frequent shoppers.
For classic basics of great quality, Everlane is the perfect shop. It is reasonably priced and committed to radical transparency—meaning you know exactly where your items are made. There’s a fee to ship Canada, which varies depending on the amount you spend. You will be charged tax and duties upon checkout.
The Chic Canuck
Gracie Carroll’s The Chic Canuck celebrates Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs and is a great place to find gifts, jewellery and body essentials Shipping rates are dependent on where you are (her shop is located in Toronto, Canada), but Carroll is committed to ensuring that you are happy with your order and allows returns on all unused items.
Read more: How to style a classic white button-down shirt
5 simply stunning celebrity makeup looks and how to get them