updated 29 Dec 2011, 14:31
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Amount S'poreans spent on online shopping last year
by Kenny Chee

SHOPPING online has become the main channel through which lawyer Grace Teo buys her clothes.

"I don't always have the time to physically go shopping, so online shopping is more convenient for me, as I can buy what I want from my desk at home," said the 31-year-old.

Ms Teo is among many Singaporeans who are turning to the Internet for their shopping needs. In fact, Singapore consumers spent a staggering $1.1billion on online shopping last year, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

Some 46 per cent of that spending, amounting to $508 million, was done on overseas websites. But domestic websites were surprisingly a big hit, with Singaporeans spending $420 million on them, making up 38 per cent of their total online purchases.

Another $178 million was spent on websites whose countries of origin were uncertain.

One Singaporean who loves shopping on Singapore websites is civil servant May Chen, 24.

"There's one local site I like to shop at because the person is a senior from my school, so there's that trust in terms of quality," she said.

Ms Chen added that shopping on Singapore websites is easy with Internet banking and less cumbersome than shopping on overseas sites, which comes with concerns like exchange rates.

The survey, conducted by research firm The Nielsen Company and commissioned by online payment service PayPal, polled 407 Singapore consumers in January and February.

Mr Elias Ghanem, managing director and general manager for PayPal in South-east Asia, India and South Korea, said Singaporeans are more comfortable shopping on domestic sites and "local websites are more aware of Singaporean shoppers' tastes and preferences".

He added that this phenomenon is seen in other parts of the world, noting that in a similar survey done by Forrester for Australia, 25 per cent of Australians preferred to buy only from domestic websites.

For home-grown blogshop Ohsofickle, owned by popular blogger Tammy Tay, 20, online stores have a price advantage.

Ms Tracy Tack, director of the blogshop, said webstores here can offer lower prices than those of retail shopfronts - where mark-ups can be two to three times more - as the overheads are lower.

In Ohsofickle's case, Ms Tay's popularity with Singaporeans is a part of the site's appeal, Ms Tack added.

But the popularity of online shops does not make brick-and- mortar stores irrelevant.

Dr Lynda Wee, a retail expert from the Nanyang Technological University, said physical stores have the benefit of the human touch, allowing customers to browse and try out products, as well as giving shoppers instant gratification from immediate purchases.


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