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 :P 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.