So we have all become familiar with online shopping, right? Over the past number of years, this has become a very popular way to shop, especially with millennials and Gen Z. And the trend will only continue. Will shopping malls and outdoor shopping centres continue to exist? Yes of course, at least for the foreseeable future, but store sizes will certainly be reduced (something we’ve already started to see).
I don’t shop online as often as I used to during my heavier days, mostly for lack of stylish options in stores for plus sizes that didn’t also break the bank. Now, however, I would say the majority of my wardrobe is acquired in malls and outdoor shopping centres – old school… Partly because I enjoy going to the mall (for the most part – not during the holiday season though), and partly because I found online shopping was becoming cumbersome at times. Too much fuss and muss with returns and sizing…
That is not to say, however, that I don’t shop online ever. Not at all! In fact, I will often shop online for pieces that I find in store that are not available in my size or the colour that I want. Apart from clothes and shoes, I buy all kinds of other things online such as household items, travel gear, make up & beauty products, gifts (including toys), even groceries from time to time.
With online shopping, like with anything in life, I have learned some lessons. A few guidelines to help you on your way.
Know your body type. I would even go so far as knowing your measurements – jot them down in your phone’s notepad. This is really important for knowing what cuts and styles will fit you best. Plus, nearly every online store has a sizing chart to which you can compare your own measurements. Classy tip: buy the size that fits the largest part of your body – it’s easier to take in a garment than to let it out (esp since no one leaves any fabric in the seams anymore).
Know your brands. Figure out which brands suit your body type best. Certain brands are cut curvier while others are straighter. This may also very by garment type (pants vs skirts). It may take some trial and error – and time – to narrow it down, as a heads’ up. Use what you know from your own wardrobe or go in-store to test it out.
Check “fit” description. Many online stores and brands have a fit indicator that tells you whether the item runs big, runs small, or true to size. Even for shoes! If you know your body and your brands well, this will help you order the right size, eliminating the need for returns or exchanges.
Be aware of return policies. Take note of the length of time that returns will be accepted and the process (i.e. return in store or ship back, immediate refund or delayed). There could be return shipping costs and re-stocking fees to consider too.
Warning on international shopping. Consider foreign exchange costs. If you have to return, usually you as the buyer will lose on the exchange. If you are shopping at U.S. based retailers, sometimes you can return in store locally (such as Talbots & Nordstrom), but sometimes not (such as Ann Taylor). There could also be higher shipping costs and return shipping.
Consider lead time. It takes time for an online purchase to reach your home. Delivery times have gotten shorter as online shopping becomes more popular and shipping becomes cheaper (and frankly because Amazon changed the game on this). But if you need something urgently or for a gift, give yourself a good amount of lead time. And even longer during the holiday season. Or drag your butt into a mall.
Beware of shipping costs. These can get pricey. Look for free shipping options which are often offered if you’re shopping Canadian stores/brands or if you spend more than a certain amount.
So much more selection! Colours, styles, brands, lengths (long, petites), sizes (range, plus) – the options are practically endless. Think about it: a retail store only has so much floor space and backroom, it cannot possibly fit everything. Plus it’s got to look nice. But a warehouse or distribution centre can be packed floor to ceiling with merchandise.
Potential for discounts. If you sign up for the e-mailing list, you will receive emails with discount offers that are not available in-store. (My mother is on so many lists and often finds me pieces at discounts of 40%+!)
Click a few buttons and a few days later it shows up at your door. No need to find parking or drag along unwilling children (or in my case listen to other peoples’ complaining children).
Easier to browse. No need to walk around a store lugging a purse, children, stroller, and an armful of clothes.
Shopping online is not necessarily any more price effective, esp. once you layer in duties, taxes, shipping and exchange.
Shop within your means. Online shopping can be dangerous for your credit card if you’re not careful. It’s just so easy to charge it, right?
Determining fit can be a challenge, and making returns can sometimes be difficult.
Volume can be overwhelming. Good to have an idea of what you’re shopping for before you start.
To first time online shoppers I say don’t be afraid to take the plunge! Start small – maybe one or two items. Stick to stores and brands that you know will fit well.