Online deals lure Kiwis shoppers to US stores

Kiwi shoppers are being enticed into the famed New York department stores of Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Saks Fifth Avenue to do their Christmas shopping this year, in what is seen as the latest nail in the coffin for High St retailers.

In a carefully-timed marketing ploy, described as "just in time for the holidays", Kiwis can now enter the famous American stores without even leaving their home.

They will be met with open arms, given exclusive online deals, including 30 per cent discounts, free and discounted shipping, free duties and returns, and are able to pay in US dollars without currency conversions.

The exclusive online shopping offers come after a partnership between MasterCard and internet shopping platform FiftyOne Global Ecommerce, announced on Friday.

New Zealand cardholders can shop online and then punch in a special code which will give them special access to the deals.

"We're seeing an increased demand among consumers in Asia/Pacific and the Middle East for merchandise from the US," said MasterCard's Philip Yen.

"Feedback from our cardholders points to a desire for attractive merchandise, with safe, convenient payment and shipping options."

The offer is not open to US shoppers wanting to buy from New Zealand stores.

The promotion will run from November 23 to December 10, and is available to MasterCard cardholders across Asia/Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

It's believed that around a billion dollars is spent every year through overseas websites.

Since parcels under NZ$400 avoid tax on entry to New Zealand, it's costing the Government around $150 million a year and it's increasing every month, said John Albertson, chief executive of the New Zealand Retailers' Association.

"The Government is essentially subsidising offshore retailers," he said.

Stores were struggling to compete price-wise with overseas online retailers, especially on fashion items which can avoid 10 per cent in Duty and 15 per cent GST, Mr Albertson said.

"Retailers here have to compete and make offers that make people shop with them, but to have a significant disadvantage before they start ... it's a fairness and equity question."

Mr Albertson had no issue with the MasterCard offer, but simply asked for a level playing field.

"If you're paying GST on goods bought in Christchurch, then you should be paying GST on goods bought in New York, because they're going to be consumed here in New Zealand."

Earlier this month, it was revealed that New Zealand stores could introduce "fitting fees" after an alarming increase in the number of people trying on clothes in store before buying cheaper items online.

More than half of the New Zealanders questioned intended to opt for convenience this Christmas and buy some of their presents by clicking online rather than parking at the mall, according to an Interactive Advertising Bureau of New Zealand (IABNZ) survey.

"Consumers are becoming more sophisticated, and retailers need to better leverage online channels accordingly," said Laura Maxwell-Hansen, IABNZ chair and general manager of Yahoo!NZ.

"Online shopping is borderless and while convenience is cited as the number one reason to buy Christmas presents online, price and range are also key factors."

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the MasterCard offer was a sign of the times.

"New Zealand retailers need to stay on their toes," he said.

"We're in a rapidly changing environment and we need to keep up."

US stores in the MasterCard scheme include, Aeropostale, Barneys New York, Bloomingdale's, Chef's Catalog, Eileen Fisher, Fathead, Garnet Hill, Gilt Groupe, Guitar Center, J.Crew, Jos A. Bank, Lane Bryant, Macy's, Motosport, Musician's Friend, OverStock, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears,, The Children's Place, Tommy Bahama, Warby Parker, WoodWind & BrassWind and yLang.

- Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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