online shopping in south africa

So, it may or may not surprise you to know that I hate shopping. I hate malls, crowds, people en masse. I hate parking lots, screaming kids, and slow walkers. Where at all possible, I’d like to avoid shopping forever. I’m not talking grocery shopping – that I have learnt to do at strategic times and places where there are few people. I’m talking the other kind of shopping. The kind girls are supposed to love. Well, newsflash. I’m a girl, and I hate it.

So what’s a girl to do when she needs new shoes? Well, she can suck it up and trawl Canal Walk for hours, and come out murderous. Or, she can stay home (or at work, at the beach, or anywhere really) and shop online.

For those of you still not on the online shopping bandwagon, it’s my absolutely favourite thing. So, here’s my personal run down of the online shopping scene as I experience it. If you’ve anything to add, shout in the comments and I’ll add it in.

I’ll start with Spree, as I’ve never had a bad experience with them. As far as I can gather, Spree was launched by whichever media house in charge of Marie Claire, Fair Lady, etc. with the aim of stocking in one place, much of the fashion they feature in their magazines. The variety of magazines featured (from You and Huisgenoot to Fair Lady), means there’s a variety of price points, plus the scene changes often, as the magazines are always featuring new things. Now, I don’t really buy fashion magazines (haven’t since high school), but I get the newsletters and I search for things occasionally, and the selection is excellent. They’ve also recently started stocking homeware, so now you can buy from a smallish selection of art prints and kitchen pieces as well, as well as a baby range (not really my thing, but good to know).

Their range is good, as are most of the details included which help with online shopping decisions. It’s helpful to know how long the handle of the bag is that you’re thinking of getting, or the actual dimensions of the platter. That, coupled with pretty decent photos makes shopping a pleasure (and makes me more likely to pull the trigger). I’ve bought handbags, jewellery and home goods, and so far everything has been of great quality and pretty well priced.

The most important thing to note here, however, is that shipping is free and there’s no minimum order value, which is awesome, and they usually deliver pretty promptly. I’ve had a same day delivery before, but usually 24-30 hours is all it takes. That’s excellent when you’re short on time. Returns are also free within 30 days of purchase, and they collect from you, if you had it delivered to your door, or you can mail it back. They will refund you cash, and I’ve never had a problem with this system.

Zando are, as far as I know, run by a German company. As such, their funding is great, and their advertising is abudant. Their range includes everything from clothes and shoes to cosmetics and home goods, and it’s a pretty decent selection. Their information is usually pretty clear, and there are always detail shots of the items, so you can see pretty clearly what you’re buying. When they launched, as far as I can remember, shipping was free without a minimum order value, but now it’s only with purchases over R250.

I’ve bought jewellery, shoes, accessories and cosmetics, and all of it has been cool. The instances where something has not fitted, or whatever, have been returned with minimal issues. I have found myself shopping on Zando less often now than when the shipping was completely free, but it’s not difficult to get orders up over R250. Just dangerous to do it too often, you know? Returns must be done within 14 days, and are collected from the delivery address. I’ve had cash refunds before, but have heard from friends that they are often just offered a store credit, so there’s that.

Takealot sell everything. From DVDs and home goods, to cosmetics, stationery, kids and pet stuff – you name it, they’ve got it. This means their range isn’t hugely curated, and they discount a lot to make stuff move. It also means that they don’t hold everything in stock, which means orders can be hugely delayed. I recently ordered something fairly standard, and it arrived before their estimated delivery date (which was more than three weeks from purchase), but not by much. If your order is time sensitive (as mine was last Christmas, when I ordered Christmas CDs in November, only to be told on Chrismas Eve that they could deliver in January), rather order elsewhere or get into the car. If the item shows as in stock in your city, you should get it pretty promptly, usually within a day or so, I’ve found. They also offer free delivery for orders over R250 (free in December though), and free returns.

This is biased, because I work here, but I can honestly say that Yuppiechef offers some of the best customer service around. They (we) work hard to ensure that there’s a great range of kitchen and homeware goods – you can even buy beer, wine and food now, as well as baby things and a range of outdoor stuff. Add to that pretty quick delivery (obviously I get it super quick since I work there), but if there’s stock, and you’re in a main centre you should have your order in about 24 hours, but not longer than 3 days. All delivery and returns are free, and customer service will happily refund you if you’re not happy with your purchase.

Loot are a lot like Takealot. Loads of stuff, not much curation. There’s a slight skew towards electronic goods, but really, there’s a ton of stuff. Books, electronics, games, wine, baby stuff, toys – you name it, you’ll probably find it here. Their standard delivery is with SA Postal Service… Not my first choice. Luckily, their offices are right next to mine, so when I do order from them, I usually waive the delivery fee by collecting my order, but they also offer courier delivery for free on orders of over R250, so bear that in mind.

They started out as a beauty product subscription service, about a year or so ago, and now they sell a variety of top beauty brands, and some of their own products. I used to order their beauty box, which was really convenient and ran on an automatic debit from my credit card, and it was very cool. A range of tester products, usually 5-6, and some full size products to use and test, all chosen based on your personal profile. In the interests of not spending every penny, I discontinued it, but it was very cool. Like a present to myself every month.

As I said, they also have a shop now, and I recently bought a few makeup brushes. After reading and watching many reviews (provided by them on their site, and elsewhere), these seemed like the best I was going to get for what I was willing to spend, and I’m very happy with them. My order did take a full week to arrive though, after some prompting on Twitter, which is always slightly disappointing, when they claim 2-5 days delivery. But still, the products are great, as is the attention to detail with the packaging, which I did appreciate. I’ve not tried to return anything with them, and the terms and conditions surrounding returns is at best confusing, so try to be sure of your order before going ahead with it.

MrPMr Price Online

This one surprised me. As with all Mr Price clothes, sometimes the sizes are funny, or don’t fit nicely, but you get very much what you pay for here. What I really like about this, is that when you order from the online store, you get your clothes delivered straight from the depot, in their packaging. You don’t have to fight for space in a changing room, or deal with a million people. You order online, have it delivered, try it on in your own home, with your other clothes, and then return the items you don’t want to your nearest store. Because they are not high value items, I usually order more than I would usually buy, accepting that I’ll likely return about half of it. There’s a Mr Price in at least 3 places near to where I live and work, so returning is no issue. As long as you haven’t obviously worn it, they will take returns of everything. Look, I haven’t ordered underwear, so I don’t know about that, but they’ve taken everything else back from me, and refunded me in either cash (for EFT payments), or to my credit card, if that’s how I paid. Delivery is pretty quick, usually between 3-5 days, which is fine for me, since I’m not usually in much of a hurry for it.

There are more and more online shops springing up all the time. Some good, some bad, some small, some huge. For a person like me, that’s incredibly exciting. For all of us, the more competition there is, the more all these companies will have to work harder to keep customers. So please, do yourself a favour and give some online shopping ago. Buy something small with free delivery, and experience the ‘gift to yourself’ experience that online shopping can be. Plus, with petrol going up all the time, who has money to go the the mall?