If there is one thing I’ve noticed in recent times is a proliferation of designer or luxury goods on the streets of KL. It has only really taken off in the past 3 years or so and it is quite gratifying because this means, we are now on the map for most designers to enter the market and that’s excellent for us.
Yet, I personally don’t attribute this sudden fashion consciousness (or wealth, if you look at it that way) to a sudden awakening of fashion (and wealth) in Malaysians. I attribute it primarily to the options now available to most to source their luxury or designer goods, for a smaller pricetag than what is sold in store locally. Yes, I say the increase in the number of women toting Longchamp le Pliages, Monogram LVs and Coach is due to the parallel importers, blogshops, and online stores that have made it more affordable to own something designer. It isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. I think its a great feeling to pick up that first luxury or designer item but does it matter to you where that item comes from?
I have seen a number of shops proclaiming themselves to be specialist luxury bag stores, or stores that carry a small selection of brands as parallel importers, or even online stores that sell designer goods at a hefty discount off the retail price. I’m curious if anyone has bought anything from these stores, parallel importers or online stores; or if you have ever entertained the thought? “Parallel Importers” are supposed to be stores that bring in authentic goods without going through the local distributor or the owner.
I admit that I have entertained the thought more than once. I don’t do blog shops, sprees or Facebook stores or any “store” that doesn’t have a proper online shopping website. This is true not only for fashion items, but for anything. I find it too sleazy, rather like doing an illicit transaction in the quiet backlanes and alleys from a man wearing a grubby trench coat. Yes, I watch too much TV too 🙂
What I have considered are second hand or parallel importer stores. I know they are really popular in Hong Kong – the Milan Station chain is huge, as are the various “Station” stores that have popped up as well. Hong Kong has a huge market for these parallel imports and I’ve stepped into quite a few. Locally however, I wouldn’t do any of the “Station” stores. I’ve walked in there and I can tell you that I have my doubts on authenticity. I have browsed the parallel import stores in Hong Kong where prices are a little bit lower than what you’d get in store, but every single time, despite already picking out something I like, I balk at taking out my wallet. I am just not confident of authenticity even if the claims are that it is 100% authentic.
I don’t really want to buy something, go home and have a niggling doubt in my mind every time I look at my purchase. I’d always have to live with that “What if?” factor – What if, its not authentic? What if its a defective piece? So, I’ve never done it.
The same is true locally. I have taken a look at some consignment stores or parallel importers locally and as will happen, my eye will be caught by something but I haven’t yet given in. As usual, the “What if?” question pops up in my mind and my wallet goes back into my bag.
Online, I have looked at some online stores (proper websites and proper businesses) that sell luxury or designer goods at a lower price because they say they source their products directly from overseas. Some claim to buy in bulk to get a wholesale price. Some have buyers who go overseas regularly to buy goods and bring them back. Your “saving” is usually based on the exchange rate and the lower prices of goods in their home country and whatever discount they offer.
Thus far, I haven’t been convinced enough to give these online stores a go. I have checked reviews online and I have seen some reports of people receiving non-authentic goods although in the main, I’ve seen glowing reports. The thing you see, is that in order to have peace of mind, you have to take it to the store and authenticate it. Some brands may do it for you, some may just give a verbal authentication; and if you want to claim a refund, it must say in writing that your item is not authentic. Imagine the hassle and the stress.
One exception is if I were to purchase something online from a large international department store or a reknowned webstore. There are a couple I look at, which I’ve purchased items from albeit nothing too big ticket. Some examples are Net-a-Porter, Mr. Porter and Shopbop. The point to note is that these stores aren’t parallel importers and sell at the retail prices of the country they are based in. Any “saving” I get is based on exchange rate, tax savings and price differentials. These do not sell goods at a reduced price unless they are running a sale so it would be like walking into a department store and buying the goods there.
Having gone around the block, and given it a lot of thought, my answer is a simple “No”. I do not have the confidence to buy luxury or designer goods from parallel importers. I suck it up and buy in store if I want it badly enough, either locally or when I travel, or I seek favours from friends and family who travel.
Yeah, I may seem pretty dumb for paying full prices, but at least I never have to live with the “What if?” Each item has its story of how I got it, what milestone it marks, and if I have problems with it (rarely) I just need to take the receipt to the store and get it sorted or even exchanged. I have done so, I have received excellent service and I enjoy my shopping experience. In many ways, that’s what makes shopping truly enjoyable 🙂
Yet, I can’t say I’ve never purchased parallel imports. I do, with some beauty items. I know, hypocritical, but there you go 😛 I do stick to more established sites or stores (e.g. Sasa is a parallel importer for some brands that have an official local presence) and thus far *touchwood* its all good.
Will you shop for luxury goods through parallel importers whether in store or online? Have you done so and do you have a story to tell?
There are a few sites I look at, but I just know I won’t do it simply because I value my peace of mind. As for designer or luxury goods you may see pop up on group deal websites, my advice is not to even go there. A Longchamp le Pliage retails for about RM350 if you buy it directly from the store in Europe. Any “deal” or store that claims to be able to sell it for RM100 is just ripping you off. Don’t go there, kids. Save your hardearned money and get the real deal or just get an alternative, not a fake.
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I’ve seen many of these online and i only bought it once, through a rather large webshop that has international presence. that was a few years ago. I find that i have that nagging doubt like you said. What if? That is why i do prefer getting it from the store, see and feel and touch the real thing without the hassle of return shipping, and definitely have a peace of mind.
Paris B says
I’m the same. Much rather shop in store for big ticket items. I’ve been tempted a few times by these online stores and their deals though but haven’t caved yet 🙂
Yue Rain says
Well, i would rather buy from the stores in full price as i don’t like the feeling of “what if it is fake”. Even some that sell for full price can be fake. At least getting from the “real deal”, i can feel safe about forging out so much money for an authentic one and not the pirated one.
Paris B says
I think its the fear of getting a fake that makes me most wary. Money is hard earned. I don’t want to end up with a crappy fake good at the end of it!
The only thing I’ve bought from internet/multiply/facebook “stores” are cosmetics, Graftobian specifically. They claim that they are the authorized distributor. It’s not really expensive and the product is really authentic, thankfully. As they order by bulk from Camera Ready Cosmetics. I’m also a huge fan of Ichibankao and Adambeauty.
As for designer goods. I always buy from the boutique. I know I’m paying premium, but with the proliferation of knockoffs and the very talented and almost impossible way for some to distinguish these knockoffs from the real thing, it gives me a peace of mind to purchase from the actual boutique when I know I wouldn’t be handed a perfect knockoff.
Paris B says
Haha! I’m a big fan of Adambeauty too but I haven’t shopped there in a while. I bought from Ichibankao a while ago but boy are they expensive! I think buying designer from online sources detracts from the fun of actually buying it in store. It really is a fun experience and one to enjoy, plus the peace of mind of course!
Nope, I wouldn’t touch them. Part of the fun of buying a deisgner item is the store experience for me. For example, when I bought a LV bag in Kyoto, it was raining and my LV bag got a raincoat to protect it! I would rather know that it’s real. In Australia, I see a lot of ‘replica/inspired by’ bags that people bought in Bali and the difference in quality is amazing. I’d rather one good, real bag than 10 iffy ones!
Paris B says
See, that’s why I love LV even if people think them overrated. Their service is quite something! In fact, most brands have pretty good service, and if I don’t get good service from one, I leave and go to another that has. I get owning similar designed goods by other brands. I’ve done it in my time, but I don’t get owning a fake good. Why?!
I have thought of it. But never tempted enough too. I’d rather pay the hundreds more to get it in-store. I don’t even really trust the official website of those brands.
Paris B says
Here’s something I learnt recently. You know those outlet stores overseas where designer goods are sold cheaper? Apparently some of the items are made to be sold in the outlet store where its sold at a cheaper price and the quality isn’t as good. I was told the stores won’t even take it in for repairs if there’s a problem. Now, that made me do a double take! So maybe not trusting the online store is a good idea too 😉
Effa Haniza says
Interesting topic! Here, we have few FB ‘sellers’ who are currently residing in Paris/UK/ US selling all these luxury handbags. So many times I have asked for price quotation and it always came disappointing. I realised that they took more than $100 profits which I think is not reasonable since they will claim the tax anyway! And they are shipping the bags in bulk.
I’d rather bought from online (i.e Saks, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, even Barneys and Macy’s). Of course, I would compare the prices first and what’s disappointing there are only certain brands they can ship. I’d ask my friends who are going overseas if I’m desperate 😛 So NO, no matter how tempted I am to see all these beautiful bags from FB sellers, I don’t have the courage to buy from them just because I know I can save (even just a little!)
Effa Haniza says
Oh! The online site even have shipping promo price which is always a plus point! 😀
Paris B says
I have seen those, Effa and we have them too and I know that sometimes the savings is just a couple of hundred for which I’d rather just get instant gratification in store, plus I get the fun of shopping in store! 🙂 its a pity that many online department stores don’t ship to me here in Malaysia but I’m sort of glad too. I’d be so broke otherwise 😛
Hani Lutfi says
I prefer going to the physical store of an authorised reseller. If I can’t go to a physical store (not everyone can make time for frequent trips to Pavillion), then I’d prefer going to the website of the particular brand. Some designer brands (like Tory Burch) offer the privilege of shopping online.
This post made me thinking though, is net-a-porter.com a parallel importer?
That’s an interesting one. I don’t think net-a-porter is a parallel importer. I’m very certain they are an authorised reseller because their prices are pretty much similar to other online stores (Neiman Marcus etc). I’ve always preferred them simply because of the top notch service, variety of products and ease of returns. Having said that, some of the American brands are a little cheaper on shopbop (e.g. Tory Burch, Alexander Wang, Michael Kors)
Paris B says
Mmm I didn’t know about Tory Burch (why did you have to tell me again?!) 😛 I have contemplated getting TB on Shopbop but I got a pair of shoes at their store andi find it bites too much so I’m passing on them now. I think its an interesting question about Net-a-porter but I think they are authorized sellers. I do stand to be corrected though. I notice they sell at the regular retail price so I think they are rather like a department store in that regard, as opposed to parallel Importers who usually sell things more cheaply.
I’ve really thought about this long and hard. Not so for items that are easy to come by. You can step into any Chanel and pick up a classic flap in whatever colour you want. And, if the particular item is not in stock, they’d bend over backwards to bring it in from another boutique. But more for items that require you to go on a waiting list. I’ve not dared bite the bullet yet to be honest. I’ve come to the conclusion that when the time comes, if all the stars are aligned, if I see it and I’m able to buy it, I’m meant to have it.
That way, I suppose I can rest easy at night.
Paris B says
I was hoping you’d comment 🙂 I operat the same way you do. There’s nothing I can absolutely not live without so if the time is right some day, and I see it at a price I’m comfortable with in store, I’ll get it. Till then, I’d bide my time.
I’ve give a serious thought about this. I wasn’t too sure that this pararel importrr goods. But my I do have friends who bought and said it was authentic. And years ago my friend told me about her sister who had bought a fake LV bag from our LV boutique in KLCC. That actually enough to even raise my doubt on buying designers good from our local boutique. I gave up all the ideas of purchasing one then until recently when I decided to splurge on my first designer bag I bought via my friend who happened to travel to Paris. Other than that I will only consider buying from net a porter or shopbon.
Paris B says
I have heard about the story about the fake LV from the store thing but it appears to have been an isolated incident. Still, can definitely cause trouble for them! I wouldn’t write off the local official boutiques. There is usually more to things than meet the eye 😉 I find it harder to trust a non official source because its a lot harder to get a refund or exchange or even some form of acknowledgement. Glad you picked up something nice for yourself and from Paris too! Must have saved you a pretty penny!
I was searching for the term… And now I know it’s called Parallel Importer. LOL!!!
Paris B says
Hey! This is by far one of the best posts yet! This post is soo important to get people to be aware about buying ‘designer goods’ especially bags online from blogshops and all. You don’t seem dumb for paying full price at the authentic designer shop. I mean why pay half price and most probably end up with a product that is made out of cheap material and won’t even last long. You won’t be surprised, some of them even sell them at a price close to the original price but it’s not an original item. I have read stories of people who bought the product and took it to the authentic designer store only to be told that they have been ripped off. I think this is ridiculous and I too have spotted many carrying Longchamp totes and coach wristlets. I even see deals like this come up on groupon and dealmates. Hopefully, people will be aware not fall into these scams.
Thanks once again for taking time out to share your thoughts on this matter by making this post! 🙂
Paris B says
Hi Neesha, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I think this is a very important topic too because these days, these blogshops and Facebook stores are everywhere and they all claim to be able to sell expensive stuff so cheap! Even if it wasn’t cheap, imagine paying almost full price for a non authentic item. I think our hard earned money deserves better 🙂 I do wish there was a way to warn people off the group deals for long champ and coach stuff but then I realise that some people may know its not real but don’t care, you know. I think this apathy is worse than ignorance 🙁 glad you enjoyed this post!
I always buy from official sources, I have it easier because most of luxury brand which Im interested in have actually their flagship stores in Paris. I dont understand especially buying from instagram. How on earth can you be sure that this person doesnt sell fakes and just steal pictures? I dont approve it, I dont support it and for me its not even worth considering it.
Although I was tempted once, when I wanted to get very particular Birkin colour but I woke up a little too late for the party 😛 But thats a different story as for Birkin from reseller you pay +50% of original price in most cases.
Paris B says
You’re lucky, girl! 😉 there are people selling stuff on Instagram?? That’s totally new to me! I mean how do you even verify anything on Instagram?! Mind boggling 😛 I have heard about these hard to get items like Birkins. No, they don’t usually get sold cheaper. You’d be lucky to get it at its retail price!
Mei Ping says
I was also tempted by these resellers and made my first purchase from them. There is a big difference in the service provided when you purchase from the local boutiques and these resellers. Anyhow, purchase was made and done. All the warranty, authenticity cards and dust bag were given together. I even used it while browsing in the local boutiques and had compliments on the bag as the colour was not available locally. After a few months of using, a thread popped. I brought the bag and the warranty card to the local boutique expecting them to rectify the problem for me as what the reseller claimed they would. I had a shock when the local boutique said that my bag was not under warranty due to the fact that my warranty card has no date stamp and place of purchase stamp on it, thus it is not valid. If I want to repair the bag, I would have to pay for it. I was very disappointed but it was a lesson learnt and that will be my first and last time purchasing from them. They have 2 branches – 1 in Ampang and the other in Bangsar.
Paris B says
Wow Mei Ping, thank you for sharing your story. I’m not sure I know which resellers you mean but you bet I’m going to google them! Lol I’m sorry you had this experience and I hope it wasn’t too expensive. I think there’s a lot to be said for shopping in store. Service, ambiance and just the security of knowing you can take it back at any time, is sometimes worth paying a little extra. I’ll be sure to think of your experience if I ever get tempted again!
Elle BigWig says
I would be absolutely horrified to carry a fake, so I guess I would rather pay full price in a retail store. Oh, gee…the price to be fashionable…lol
Paris B says
I suppose the alternative will be to not be into luxury or designer goods! 😉
I have bought one or twice branded goods from those blog shops, but after recalculating everything plus the time it takes for me to receive the items it would have been more economical if I had just ordered direct from supplier and it even takes half the time too. Don’t you just hate those batch orders?
Of course this would only work for brands or stores that deliver their goods to Malaysia. In terms of bags or shoes I just wait when it finally reaches the brand’s stores in Malaysia. For special items like kitchen gadgets or my cats’ timer feeder 😉 I’ve used the service of Malaysian blogger who lives in US, and I’m very satisfied with her service. Of course I still have to pay the necessary charges, service fee, tax etc on top of the price but because she sends out the items as soon as she receives them on her side usually the items would reach me within two weeks more or less. And she updates you on the delivery status so you won’t be left in the dark. So, I’ll be using her service now and again.
On a side note do you still order books from Book Depository or Amazon still? I’m just curious how long did it take for you to receive the books? My last order took 6 weeks! That’s why I’m jumping on the e-book wagon now 🙂
Paris B says
I’ve heard of some people who run a service sourcing goods for people here. It’s good that you have found one who is reliable 🙂 I haven’t ordered books from Book Depository for a while. I picked up tons of them at the Big Bad Wolf book sale so I’m still working through them. Last I ordered, I do remember it took ages to arrive so by the time it did, I’d forgotten that I’d even ordered anything LOL! I still don’t do e-books though, I love the feel of a book in hand. It takes up too much space but I suppose I’m lucky to have the space to fill 😉
Paris, you mentioned that you’ve purchased stuff online from large international department stores. Do you have any recommendations for Japanese department stores? Thanks!
Paris B says
Hiya! I’ve purchased from stores like Shopbop.com and net-a-porter for fashion stuff but never from Japanese department stores. I’m not sure they even ship internationally? Sorry I’m not much help 😛
I have not purchased from these parallel importers of blog shops. I am a conservative buyer, fussy to top that up lol. I’d pay more so that I get the luxurious experience of purchasing a luxury item. Oh and to carry the paper bag in style when I step out of the store. Like you mentioned, I really dislike the what if feeling right after spending a bomb online but perhaps saved just a little compared to shopping in the actual boutique.
Paris B says
Haha the feeling of stepping out with your prized purchase in that snazzy paper bag on your shoulder is indescribable, yes? 🙂 I am also picky so I want my purchase to be perfect as can be and that means I inspect every bit of it! Hey, it’s our hard earned money! 🙂
Has anyone used Borderlinx services before? Are the charges very expensive?
Paris B says
I haven’t, sorry Iza. I hope someone who has can help!
Paris, you mentioned that you shop online from large international department stores. Can you recommend any online websites for Japanese department stores? Thanks!
Hiya Paris dearie! LOL! Wow, I love this post! Just in time to give me more inspiration on how to get my dissertation drafted 😀 Yes you heard me, “drafted” 😛 Still in a dilemma between two elements to finalise my topic 🙁 Just a draft already made me sobbed 🙁
Yup! I would prefer to purchase it from the official store too! It’s unlike buying a FMCG but it’s a durable luxury good that’s meant to last 😀
More of this post please! 😀 Your amazing post inspires me a lot! Yay!! muacks! xoxo
Paris B says
Hiya AnT, can’t believe you are writing a dissertation! I’d cry if I had to do it LOL Like you, I’m probably less bothered about FMCG but when it comes to something pricey, I feel better knowing where I got it from. Funny eh, the way we think? 😛
LOL! Well, I am sure you can write much much muchhhh better than me. Maybe I should outsource it to you (evil grin) 😛
Funny indeed sometimes 😀 Hmm, that said, it’s also linked to consumer behaviour 😀 Wise consumer we can be most of the time when it comes to something pricey eh? 😀