Cyperspace style

In some ways, shopping has become a lazy exercise. We do not need to stir from the sofa to get the hottest trends into our wardrobes. It’s raining, it’s cold, you need something to wear for your best friends’ birthday next Saturday but you could not bear the elements. No rain gear will do. The simple solution – open the laptop and get every designer and high street store style on your lap. But, we have to be conscious of a few things.

The T&Cs

Before hitting the purchase button, check out a couple of things. These may sound fairly obvious but I am surprised at how often I personally have ignored them. First up, always check the sizing chart, especially for clothing. Every brand differs in fit from size to size, so match up your measurements, like waist and hips to their standard published sizes. Some sites also display European and US sizing which can make the process even more confusing. Many times I have seen 36 and 38 both displayed as a size 10, leaving me baffled as to what size I should be buying. Secondly, shipping and delivery are invariably the costs we forget about. What is a €40 dress may become €50 when post and packaging are added on. Online retailers are black and white about shipping costs and document the pricing on a separate page; this should be number one on your list especially if you are working to a budget. Watch out for special offers when you spend over a set amount, some sites will give you free or reduced shipping, so try to take advantage of these when you can. Lastly, returns policies are crucial, if the dress doesn’t fit and the friends birthday is next week, have you time to return it? Will you get your money back or just store credit? And do you have to pay for the return or is it free? Another key thing to remember, that if you order from outside of Europe you may have import charges to pay too!

My favourite cyberspaces

Since I work on a laptop 24 hours a day, I have become an online shopping junky. I sign up to all the newsletters so I can keep on top of special offers, especially from sites like The Outnet (www.theoutnet.com ) and Net-a-Porter (www.netaporter.com ) who stock high end designers at reduced prices and occasionally have flash sales, where you can treat yourself to the ultimate bargain. This is at the top end of the retail food chain, and the success of both these sites can be attributed to keeping customers up to date with current and future stock, which just adds to the fashion frenzy. Most recently, The Outnet took stock of some amazing collections from Hervé Leger (Blue Printed Bandage Dress ) and Lanvin with some pieces being reduced by 50%.

At the middle of the scale, are sites from the high street like River Island, who recently announced shipping to Ireland, Oasis and Topshop; and dedicated online shops like ASOS and boohoo.com (Rose Maxi dress, €40 ). Some retailers will also offer a service where you can order online and pick up in the shop, a great idea if the size or style you want is not available in store. Littlewoods Ireland (Pictured, Fearne Cotton ) is a one stop shop for clothing, technology and household goods; a great place at Christmas time as there is something for everyone. That said, Irish online stores are gaining momentum with Ruby Cotton (www.rubycotton.com ) going from strength to strength, and “for hire” websites like Couture for Hire (www.coutureforhire.com ) and Frock n Fabulous (www.frocknfabulous.ie ) where you can rent a dress or outfit for an occasion and then send it back, an online shopping format that is recession friendly and gaining a massive following. Another site coming online in May is Miinto.ie which will give shoppers access to their favourite Irish boutiques online, with popular stores like Lara Dublin and Sirona already signed up. These are just a taste of the current online offerings with plenty more to come in 2012! And of course, don’t forget to have a little flutter on ebay!

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