Post Haste: US parcel forwarding companies cash in on internet shopping bonanza
As Published In: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
August 30, 2011
AUSTRALIANS are stocking up on cheap cosmetics, discounted ski equipment and even car parts by having purchases sent to a US address that doesn't even really exist.
The address might be a suite in Sarasota, Florida, or a street number in Houston, Texas, but is close enough to a real one to be recognised by hundreds of online stores that would not usually ship outside North America.
Instead it belongs to one of many package forwarding companies which create individual virtual addresses for shoppers, to have them delivered to Australia.
Advertisement: Story continues below John Wright, the chief marketing officer at one of the largest package companies, MyUS, said shipping revenue to Australia had increased 261 per cent between January last year and this year.
''We were already doing quite well in terms of Australia but now that your dollar is so strong and your economy is doing so well, we have really noticed a big difference,'' Mr Wright said.
Mr Wright said the Florida-based company had ''tens of thousands'' of Australian customers who were regularly buying from US sites, with clothes and shoes, electronics and car parts the most popular items.
An iPad in the US is at least $100 cheaper than in Australia and make-up can be half as expensive. Sports shoes are also a fraction of the Australian price in the US, as are DVDs and books. Even rear vision mirrors are worth buying.
When Brian Bates founded the personal shopper and package forwarding service ForwardIt in 2001, his biggest market was Europe, with about 20 per cent of his customers from Australia.
But since 2008 that has changed significantly and Australians now account for 60 per cent of all shipments.
''Even after paying for shipping and services fees customers are able to come out significantly cheaper by buying in the US and having it shipped to them, instead of buying the item locally in Australia,'' Mr Bates said.
''We have ordered and shipped everything from $10 worth of foodstuffs to $2000 laptops to $14,000 wedding rings.''
But Mr Bates said 85 per cent of orders were between $100 and $300, with shoes among the most popular items shipped followed by laptops and make-up and skin care products.
He said many Australian customers also took advantage of seasonal sales and the company often shipped skis and snowboards that were heavily discounted during the northern hemisphere summer.
Many sites that do not ship outside the US also do not accept foreign credit cards but mail forwarding companies also offer a service where they will pay for the goods on a US card and then add it to the customer's shipping costs.
Some of the major US department stores such as Bloomingdales, Saks and Macy's are now shipping to Australia but the chief executive of the USA2Me, Raul Elorduy, another package forwarding company, said it was unlikely to affect his Houston-based business.
''What we do is consolidate shipping, so people can shop from a range of places like Apple and Gap and save on shipping by shipping it altogether rather than from each individual store,'' Mr Elorduy said.