Luxury is one of the few segments of fashion where you don’t have to buy directly from the brand’s website (or you can’t buy directly from the brand’s e-commerce) and have the ability to shop around for the best price, deals AND customs. Since I almost exclusively buy contemporary (the price point between premium high street and luxury) I’m pretty familiar with the various sites available to Canadians and wanted to share my knowledge of the good, the bad and the expensive.
Saks Fifth Avenue
In store returns – If you ship your order to a Canadian address you can return your purchase in store in Canada. It’s amazing. I got the wrong size shoe and needed to return them while the right size came in, being able to go to a store and just hand back the shoes and order receipt is so easy and hassle-free.
Free Shipping – If you spend over $100 Canadian you get free shipping. Which honestly is pretty easy to do. Especially when you consider the fact that unless you are buying beauty products, most things on Saks are over $100
Free Duties – OH YA. This is a major perk. Duties can be anywhere from 10-50% of your order cost tacked on at checkout and it’s entirely dependent on the brand, the value of the goods and the e-commerce stores arrangement with Canadian Customs. Having no duties is a major major major perk.
Selection – Saks has by far the most brands. With some brands, they have an amazing selection, and with others, they have a few pieces. Overall, in terms of quantity, Saks can’t be beaten.
Currency Conversion – Prices on Saks fluctuate up or down depending on the currency valuations. I’ve been tracking a pair of shoes that one day was $315 Canadian and the next was $300. You really have to watch the fluctuations and learn the highs and lows.
Prices – Not only do the prices go up and down, but the prices are MORE expensive than Canadian competitors Holt Renfrew and Ssense. It’s almost like they built in a small buffer zone to cover a little bit of the customs fee they are absorbing.
Shipping – NOT ALL BRANDS ON THEIR SITE SHIP TO CANADA. Like WTF. This is seriously weird to me. Why would you make something available online but then in fine print not ship it to Canada? Just take it off the Canadian e-commerce site?!?! Especially when it comes to the luxury brands. It’s difficult because when you want something that is online only but doesn’t ship to Canada, you have to go in-store and BEG a sale associate to ship it in for you. It’s a nightmare.
It’s Not Canadian – This is a huge factor for me. I fully believe in using my purchasing power to help other Canadians, so the simple fact that Saks isn’t a Canadian retailer immediately biases me against shopping there. I know they have stores now in Canada, but the top jobs aren’t in Canada nor do the majority of their workers live in Canada. So for that reason, as a Canadian consumer, I’m choosing somewhere else first.
*Saks off Fifth is the same*
Net – A – Porter
Returns – Net – A – Porter picks up your returns FROM YOUR HOME. Simply Amazing. You just create a return in your order history and then they email you step-by-step instructions (unlike other companies that let your DIY it). So simple and so easy.
Selection – You want it, you got it. Unlike Saks, they don’t have things that can’t be shipped to Canada.
Pictures – On Net- A -Porter, they have beautiful product shots. Natural light shows you the true colour of the pieces, and they’ve taken the time to show you up close pictures of the texture of the pieces.
Duties – If you have bought something made in the USA, you can contact support for a refund thanks to NAFTA.
Price – Everything is priced in USD. It’s awful because you think you are getting a good deal until you remember it’s USD and you need to add anywhere from 20-35% onto that total.
Shipping – You pay a $20 flat shipping fee into Canada. Free shipping is NOT a thing… honestly not a fan. Everything on the site is expensive and they can’t find it in themselves to offer a minimum free shipping threshold? Unless you absolutely cannot find that item anywhere else… it’s not worth it. Shipping + Customs + Taxes… yikes.
*The Outnet Has is Same*
Free Delivery – YAY FREE DELIVERY Over $300 USD, which honestly again like I’ve been saying is not hard to do when you are shopping for luxury.
Free Returns – YES. Some places charge you shipping to return the good to them… with luxury, it’s like… yikes the goods are already marked up slightly and they are expensive… Having free returns is a major perk.
Price – Customs and taxes are included in the price, this just makes my day honestly. If you are going to have to pay customs anyways, you might as well know the impact they are going to have on your wallet.
Selection – A selection of 450 designers is HUGE, not to mention they add new pieces every single day! There is always stuff to peruse through and you are always getting the latest drops.
Price – Everything is priced in USD, which like with Net- A – Porter, means you need to add 30-35% onto the total to get what it’ll actually cost you in CAD. You can choose to display in Canadian, but you’ll be charged in either USD, EUR, or HKD.
Welcome Bonus – My Theresa offers first-time shoppers a 10% discount. This is pretty standard practice in the e-commerce space, especially amongst brands looking to create a loyal consumer base.
Selection – Such a good curated selection. My Theresa really knows their customer base and sells the best and the most in-demand pieces.
Delivery – 2-day delivery… that’s pretty unreal. It’s the fastest delivery of any of the international sites. You have the option of faster delivery with other retailers but it not only costs you much much more and it’s not super reliable. I’ve had express shipping take 2 weeks with other retailers.. like.. that’s not express.
Price – The website not only displays the price in Euros, but the prices are on par with Farfetch. The markup is pretty steep. Unless you have a promo code or a discount code, it’s really difficult to find the best price on this website.
Customs – You are charged customs at the discretion of the customs officer handling your parcel. Meaning, you have no idea what it’ll be. This is a major con for me. At least with other sites, you can pay your duties upfront based on an estimation. If the duties are less, you are refunded and if it’s more the site absorbs the difference.
Price part 2 – There is no way to display the price in your home currency. It is incredibly difficult to shop as a customer outside of the EU because depending on the day and the exchange rate you might get an ok deal or absolutely destroyed on the price.
Selection – Shopbop has the best contemporary selection besides Ssense. Those two are pretty comparable, for selection quantity they are the same, Ssense leans much more street style while Shopbop leans more romantic with brands like Zimmerman and Ulla Johnson.
Shipping – Free shipping and free returns! woot woot!
Loyalty – Shopbop has a loyalty program! This is my FAVOURITE thing about the site, you get a discount on your birthday and perks for the more you spend.
Customs – You get to pay your customs upfront and are refunded if they are less than what you paid. If they are more than Shopbop absorbs that difference.
Wishlist – The Shopbop wishlist feature is pretty amazing. It’s displayed nicely and super easy to add/remove “hearts”.
Customs – Yes, you get charged customs which I did put their system of customs collection as a pro but the fact you still have to pay customs is a con especially when there are other alternatives where you don’t have to pay customs.
Shipping – While shipping is free, it’s a hot mess. Shopbop much like Revolve never really ships in the time frame you want it to. It’s not a site you can last minute order off of. If you are given a 5-7 day time frame, it’ll likely take the full 7 days if not longer with processing time.
Charges – You are charged in USD… like WHY. It’s a con in my opinion as it’s just a banking inconvenience.
Forward By Elyse Walker
Currency – You can choose whatever currency you want to be displayed! When shopping for luxury, you want to know how much something is going to cost you so you can compare with in-store prices.
Selection – Some of the best pieces can be found on Forward. Not only are there items that are difficult to find but there are also fresh drops coming almost every single day, meaning you are always getting access to new launches and collections.
Styling – Where Net- a – Porter has beautiful lighting, Forward taking after the affiliated premium high-street to contemporary site Revolve offers styling. They link which pieces they have also styled the model in so you can cop the look.
Customs – Like Revolve, Forward has some of the most exorbitant customs fees, and you can’t even tell what they are until the parcel is sitting at your doorstep. No fun. For that reason, I’m out. Unfortunately, the customs fees make the overall price of the good just too expensive and I really wish they either let us know how much it would be in advance and do what Shopbop does, or offer the Made in USA return system that Net-A-Porter does.
Charges- Once again you are charged in USD. At this point with major department stores charging you in your home currency, it should be the industry standard for the e-commerce department stores.
Free Shipping – Spend a minimum of $150 USD and you automatically qualify for free shipping! I love it when the luxury e-commerce department stores offer free shipping. In my opinion, you want a luxury experience and complimentary services are a huge part of that. Some of you will argue “if you can afford a $1000+ bag, you can afford $20 shipping”. Yes, but no one likes to pay for shipping.
Customs Covered – If you spend a minimum of $400 USD then Barney’s will take care of your duties for you!!!! That’s huge, $400 USD is $530 CAD (give or take $10, depending on exchange rates) which would be a substantial customs fee.
Sales – Like the other traditional department stores that operate brick and mortar as well, they do Buy More Save More at least once a quarter. This sale is pretty good considering the highest threshold (usually $3000) results in 30% ($1000) back on a gift card.
Minimum Spend – Canada has a pretty high minimum spend at $400 USD. Some other countries have a $200 USD minimum. It’s not necessarily a huge problem as you would mainly shop on Barney’s for luxury, it’s just odd that we (their neighbour, largest trading partner AND all that jazz) don’t have the preferential dollar value for minimum spend.
Sales – Sales and gift card promotions usually have country restrictions… sometimes they won’t ship the gift cards to Canada, or Canada is excluded from the offer. It’s just a mess. It does make me question why do they bother advertising it online in Canada… it’s very rare that everyone would have a US shipping address OR happen to be heading down to the States specifically after they see that ad.
Locations – Farfetch partners with brands and boutiques based all over the world. It means that there is a huge range of product!
Free Shipping – Farfetch offers minimum free shipping at $300 CAD. Honestly, I love free shipping but after comparing all the minimum spends. $300 is on the higher end for a minimum spend in comparison to $150 for other retailers.
Taxes and Duties – They include taxes and duties in the cost of your order, it’s always nice to pay duties upfront so you don’t get surprised with that bill when the delivery guy shows up.
Price – Farfetch is by far the most expensive of all the e-commerce sites, you really need to do your research on pricing before you buy as some pieces are close to other retailers and others are much more expensive. The Marc Jacob x Dr. Marten Boots I got are regular $280 Canadian, FarFetch listed them at $450+, not including taxes, duties, and shipping.
Duties – There is no minimum spend for comp’d duties.
Express and Same Day Delivery – Welp… they don’t offer express or same day delivery for anywhere in Canada. This is a major con, they can offer same day delivery to Hong Kong but not Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal??? Farfetch along with other e-commerce platforms, tend to overlook the Canadian market. We might be small, but we still have purchasing power.
Welcome discount – Bergdorf’s offers a 15% discount on your first time purchase. I always love when sites do this, I mean, who doesn’t love a discount?
Selection – Bergdorf’s has an impressive selection of designer goods. Pretty much if you want it Bergdorf has got it.
Shipping – To ship to Canada, you need to leave everything as “ship to USA” UNTIL checkout. Then you need to switch shipping destination to Canada. It seems like laziness on the side of the site to not allow the consumer to set the shipping destination from the outset.
Shipping pt. 2 – They don’t offer flat rate shipping. It’s not a huge deal but when other retailers are offering a flat rate fee of $20 for the same dollar value of goods… it doesn’t make sense why they aren’t following their competitors.
Canadian – Being Canadian is a perk! You support Canadian jobs, you are shopping within Canada AND are making sure our unique retailers don’t get wiped out by foreign competitors
Duties – What duties? Shopping from a Canadian store means no duties!
Shipping – $100 CAD minimum spend for free shipping!!!!! Such a good minimum spend threshold. Holt Renfrew really wins in the fact that they offer instore pick up at the Bloor Street and Vancouver locations for same day pickup on orders placed before 12pm (EST for Bloor and PST for Van). Holt Renfrew also offers next day delivery, express delivery and standard delivery, which is such a refreshing change to have a retailer who next day delivers to Canadian locations.
Selection – You can only shop shoes, accessories, outwear and beauty. It’s a bit of a bummer but considering the selection in store is not as expansive as the American retailers it’s pretty good.
Canadian – This Montreal based luxury e-commerce site is my FAVOURITE place to shop luxury in Canada. I’m always happy to support Canadians and Ssense is the best there is.
Selection – Their selection is unreal. Everything from Street Wear to Fendi can be found on the site. They carry niche and mainstream brands and select the best combination of trending pieces and the “next” big thing.
Shipping – SO FAST. And they do offer Free Shipping and returns in Canada.
Price Matching – Ssense will price match if you find a better price somewhere else. This is an amazing service, especially when you consider that if something goes on sale somewhere else they will price match.
Prices – Ssense has THE BEST prices available for the Canadian market. When comparing prices across all the retailers who offer duty-free and free shipping – the same order (same items, same size, same everything) after tax is ALWAYS less expensive from Ssense. It’s absolutely unreal.
Returns – This is the only con that I can give them because other retailers will pick up the return directly from your house, and with Ssense you have to post it yourself. It’s such a small thing, but if they did that then there would be nothing to complain about.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post! It was a monster of a post but I hope it’s provided you all some valuable information on luxury online shopping as a Canadian! Don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a post!