Cross border E-shopping

Let's face it: Kelowna is no fashion shopping mecca.

Yes, there are unique and innovative independent retailers here (who warrant their own column...coming soon) and great chains at local malls.

But there is simply not the population base nor spending demographic to entice high-end luxury designers to set up shop here.

We are more likely to get that fabled IKEA than to see a Nordstrom any time soon. So you have to travel to Vancouver or Calgary or further afield to get your hands on a Louis Vuitton or Louboutin.

Also, some great brands are based in Europe with very little stock available in North American stores. And many new up-and-coming fashion disruptor brands, such as Everlane and Grana, are exclusively only available online as a way to keep costs low.

If you are interested in fashion, it is increasingly likely you are going to be shopping online from international sites.

Here are pros and cons you need to keep in mind.


Most big retailers auto-detect when you are located in Canada and enable prices to be shown in Canadian dollars. For sure, this is handy.

But be aware that these numbers typically do not include international shipping, duties and taxes. And remember that all costs will be charged in the host company’s currency; factor in that most credit cards add an additional 2.5% to charges in foreign currencies.

If you do a lot of international transactions, it can be worth getting a credit card that offers a more favourable currency conversion rate. 

If you use Paypal, they also tack 2.5% on to the bank rate for currency conversion. You can always check your Paypal balance in foreign currencies by using their “manage currency” page.

In certain instances, currency can work in a Canadian’s favour. For example, something that is offered through the U.S.-based company Net-a-Porter might also be available through the UK-based Harrods.

Depending on the price and how the Canadian dollar is doing against the U.S. or the British pound, you can end up getting a better deal.

A great site to help you cost compare across international retailers is shopstyle.com. Another site, farfetch.com, pulls stock from various smaller retailers throughout Europe to show you price and product comparisons.


Many retailers advertise free shipping and returns for purchases over a certain amount. However, always double-check this offer includes shipping to Canada.

What if you want to buy from a store that doesn’t offer shipping to Canada? The website Parcl.com is a shipping community that connects you to people in the country you want to buy from; they buy the product and send it your way for an agreed-upon fee.

Duties and taxes:

Argh! Those dreaded extra fees. Again, many retailers now calculate and include duties and taxes at checkout so you don’t end up with a surprise bill when your package arrives.

However if your e-store doesn’t offer this service, be prepared for shipping delays and to pay more at delivery.

Canada Border Services’ website has a duty and taxes estimator to help give you an idea of what these charges could be.

I considered buying $500 worth of clothing from an Australian designer until the estimator figured it would be an additional $182 to import the goods to Canada.

And don’t ask the retailer to lie about the purchase amount in an effort to evade duties; doing so is illegal.

For other general tips about getting your fashion fix via the Internet, check out my previous column Safe, stylish online shopping  


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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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