Politics of Fashion: Everything You Need to Know about Online Shopping in Europe

COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our life, and fashion is no exception. While local retailers are struggling because physical locations are closed, this is a great time to shop overseas and take advantage of the fluctuating currency rates.

Years ago, when I first started my business, I had a lot of European clients looking to buy things in the United States because of the favorable exchange rate. Today, as the pendulum swung the other way and the dollar grew stronger, ordering goods from Europe is becoming more economical than buying them in the US.

Gucci Bag from the UK – $300 below US retail!

Here’s what you need to know about  online shopping in Europe:

What to shop for:

European labels, like Valentino, Gucci, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and so on, are cheaper in Europe than in the U.S. The opposite is true for American brands.

Shipping

Although there are several retailers that offer free international shipping (for example, Luisaviaroma) some will charge you between $20 and $40 to deliver your goods. Shipping from Europe usually takes less than week and the carrier often used is DHL.

Prices

Very often, prices online include VAT (tax in EU), which will be deducted upon checkout for someone who does not live in the European Union, thus making the price even cheaper! However, you must account for custom duties – see below!

Custom Duties

These fees are paid to the US Customs for shipping your goods from overseas and typically amount to about 10% of the item’s cost, although rates can vary depending on the product and country of origin.

Your order may be shipped DDP, meaning delivery duty paid. With this option, custom duties will be either paid during checkout or included in the price of the product listed online. With DDP, you will not pay anything extra on top of for what you pay at checkout.

Your order may also be shipped DDU, which means delivery duty is unpaid. With this option, you will receive your order followed by a bill from the shipping carrier for the customs fees due. This fee will amount to around 10% of what the item cost.

Currency

Bare in mind, that if a store charges you in Euros or Pounds, your bank or credit card company will charge you a 3% fee for currency conversion. This amount will be billed separately by your bank and will not be included in purchase price.

Returns

Review the return policies carefully prior to placing an order. Sometimes international retailers will offer free returns (for example, Farfetch does), but some stores may not refund you the customs duties you paid. Make sure to check the terms for each store.

Even with all these fees, online shopping in Europe can still be cheaper than prices in the U.S.!
Check out the stores I listed below and browse a selection of products on sale from each:

Selfridges

Another hallmark UK retailer, the analog of American Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges offers some of the best prices on brands like Gucci, Valentino and many other European labels. They offer very fast shipping and accommodate international returns.

  • Shipping: 25 pounds
  • UK VAT tax deducted, import duties included in price
  • Free returns

Italist

I’ve mentioned this store many times on this blog and that’s because it has an absolutely amazing selection of designer items, often much cheaper than what they cost in the U.S. It is a network of Italian boutiques bringing you exclusive and hard to find items straight from the source.

  • Free Express Shipping worldwide
  • Duties included in cost
  • DHL shipping return at your own cost.

Luisaviaroma

Located in Florence, Italy, this store has one-of-a-kind selection of designer items. They offer free express shipping, prices include all taxes and fees and returns are free as well!

  • Free Shipping
  • Free returns
  • Duties included in price

Farfetch

This site is a worldwide network of 400 luxury boutiques and includes stores from all over Europe, United States and Middle East. It accumulate inventory from all of these stores and allows you to browse and order from any of them conveniently under one website. Keep in mind that if you are ordering multiple items from different boutiques, (the name of the boutique you are ordering from will be listed at checkout) you may pay shipping fees several times because the items are coming from different places. Shipping usually costs between $10 and $25 depending on the boutique; import duties are included and returns are free and very easy to arrange.

  • Free Shipping on $250+
  • Delivery Duty Paid at Checkout
  • Free Returns

Malone Souliers on sale at Matchesfashion

Matchesfashion

Another UK retailer, Matchesfashion is a very convinient place to shop. It offers free shipping and free returns; duties are included in price and will be refunded in case of a return.

  • Free Shipping
  • Free Returns
  • Delivery Duty Paid at Checkout

Mytheresa

This online retailer headquartered in Munich boasts super-fast shipping and promises to deliver your order within 72 hours of placing it. It also offers you free returns or exchanges. The store opened back in 2006. It was later bought out by Neiman Marcus group two years ago.

Harvey Nichols

This iconic British retailer that dates back to 1831 offers an online shop with shipping to United States, prices in USD and duties paid at checkout.

  • Free Shipping on $250+
  • Duties paid by retailer
  • Returns via DHL

Coggles

A British online retail with free worldwide shipping.

  • Free delivery on orders $100+
  • Return at your own expense

Browns

Browns has been around since 1970s and was the first one to introduce American brands like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren to the UK market. Now fifty years later, they ship from UK to US as well to deliver some overseas styles to our closets!

  • Shipping cost $24 via DHL
  • Import duties included in cost.
  • Free returns

Forzieri

Set in Florence, Italy, Forzieri is an amazing place to shop for European shoes, bags and accessories. They offer amazing discounts, free DDP shipping (which means taxes are already included!) on orders of $150+ and free returns.

  • Free shipping on orders $150+
  • Paid by retailer, no additional charges
  • Free returns

Harrods

A famous Landon attraction, this store is also available online with shipping to the US and an option for free returns.

  • Free shipping
  • Free returns
  • Duties included in cost.

SSENSE

This Canadian retailer is the analog of American Net-a-Porter. They have a one-of-a-kind merchandise selection and free shipping & returns to the US.

  • Free Shipping
  • Free returns
  • No extra taxes

Cettire

New to the game, this retailer is based in Australia and is fully stocked with brands like Prada, Saint Laurent, Gucci and many more. They offer free expedite shipping.

  • Duties included at checkout
  • Cost of returns is $25

24S

This online boutique owned by LVMH offers free shipping & returns and thousands of coveted high end items.

  • Free shipping on orders $300+
  • Free returns
  • Duties included in price

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