image via Shutterstock / g-stockstudio
So, you find yourself going online to get your new threads with increasing regularity of late. The lure of fresh fashion picks delivered straight to your inbox is proving a little too hard to resist on occasion. Suddenly you are hitting that “Buy Now” button with reckless abandon. Perhaps you even have a particular store’s app or you know exactly what brand is stocking what, where and when. You are an ace at beating the packs to get that “must have” item every week.
Now, it’s become a hobby… or should that be obsession. No matter your level of participation (or addiction) rest assured you are not alone amongst the landslide of consumers now turning toward online fashion shopping.
Online shopping is becoming more and more popular by the minute (or should that be by the gig). Relatively new crops of cheap and cheerful fashion brands are fast becoming household names: take “Bohoo,” “ASOS” “The Iconic” and “Pop Cherry” as prime examples. Ostensibly, it’s no little wonder as to their burgeoning success. The world of Internet fashion appears to offer a less costly, more diverse range of stock that is available to the consumer 24/7. However, there are some definite downsides to the e-commerce fashion industry, not least of all the effect it has on conventional retailers.
According to a Roy Morgan report (source ABC) online retail shopping reached mainstream status in the first quarter of 2013. This followed a decade of consistent yearly growth. Shoppers are drawn to the Internet not just because of price but also because of the time factor. We can now shop at the click of a mouse on our lunchbreak. The biggest drawcard is ultimately the amazing array of latest fashions and limitless choice that can be accessed instantaneously (as opposed to having to trawl through boutiques, department and chain stores).
One obvious flaw to this system is that you can’t try before you buy. Some online fashion stores do provide a money back guarantee or refund policy, but, the general state of affairs appears to be “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware”. When you find that delicious dress (that looked so perfect on the model) squishes your boobs, sits halfway across your butt cheeks and is made of some nylon fabric more akin to under than outer wear then the fine print on the website suddenly draws a real interest.
A lot of cheap fashion sites do provide free shipping, but if your garment doesn’t fit you then sometimes the only recourse the business provides is store credit. You will most likely find that the item you ordered in the new size you need is unavailable by the time you have sent off the ill fitting (or poor quality) item in the post as requested. Keep in mind that you will have to bear the cost of sending the item back (a wise suggestion is to use registered post).
If the item is faulty then it isn’t “fit for purpose” and legally you are entitled to a refund and can make a complaint to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC). By all means, you can chase a company down. But, be prepared for a major headache. With the cheap prices comes the fact that some online companies seem to be run in some dodgy manner that doesn’t involve an actual telephone contact (or so they claim). It’s the perfect “out” to retain profits.
By the time you have emailed them 15 times and contacted the ACCC you are wishing you never spent that $39.99 in the first place. Contrast this with the traditional retail experience where you can access physical recourse. With an actual store you can show the item to the shop assistant. It’s a whole lot harder for them to ignore you then it is for some random on the end of an email address.
Using review sites to check online reputations is a great idea. You can search an online shopping retailer on sites like “estorereview.com.au”. A suggestion… try searching reviews on “Pop Cherry.” The results will yield an amalgamation of everything great and everything wrong with the online fashion shopping experience in relation to this particularly controversial company.
For great general consumer advice a visit to the “choice.com.au” website is always worthwhile. It is always advisable to do your research when it comes to shopping online, particularly in relation to buying clothing. Sometimes, it pays to try before you buy. Sometimes the lure of instant gratification proves all too much. In any case, online fashion has proven to be much more than just a trend; it is a solid feature of our everyday way of life.