- Life Style
The latest shopping trend: Facebook. As visas to Europe and the US are becoming increasingly harder to acquire and the state of Egypt’s finances and job market are at a depressing low, the internet and its wide variety of prices and options is apparently looking all the more inviting.
"I’d say Facebook shopping has successfully replaced the yearly shopping trips to the US or Europe that the upper and upper-middle class were used to," says Amina Megahed, a young woman in her 30s. According to Megahed, high-end stores in Egypt don't really satisfy her hunger for fashion, but Facebook fashion groups are the answer to her prayers.
"Let's face it, people don’t travel like before due to the economic constraints and the horrific restriction on Egyptian travelers from European embassies," explains the young woman.
Most followers of such Facbook fashion groups are mostly young women with cash and a love for fashion looking for something different from the rest of the merchandise on the market.
"It simply makes my life easier," says Hala Baraka, a young wife and mother of two who finds time for shopping a luxury that she cannot always afford. In the Facebook shopping world, the “group administrator” is in charge of everything from purchasing to shipping and taxation.
"Most groups deliver the orders to your door;" adds the young mother. "More fashion groups are launching every day on the social media channel and many products are similar, which gives me the chance to compare prices and get the best deal," says Baraka.
Mohamed Rahmy, a young banker living in London finds amusement in the new lingo and communication that comes along with the Facebook shopping world. “Pictures of items are followed by a list of comments like: ‘hm’ (how much) and ‘size plz?’” After the list, there is often a comment from the group administrator saying, “sold out” or “no longer available."
Most groups import merchandise from the UK or the United States; a small number of groups display replicas of international brands; most of the time imported from China. A code of e-commerce honesty is mandatory in this case; "I usually call the group founder and ask about the authenticity of the product before I go ahead and make the purchase," explains Baraka.
Other than the unbranded items that Facebook group sellers find in their shopping trips around cities abroad, the most common brands displayed in these groups are Coach, Mark Jacobs, Tory Burch, Michael Kors and Victoria's Secret, brand names that are internationally renowned.
"Last season March Jacobs and Michael Kors were the popular brands, but this summer Furla's colored collection of bags is taking the Facebook shopping arena by storm," says Sally Dessouky, who launched her Facebook group “The Closet” two years ago.
Sophisticated brands like Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga or Fendi are absent on these group either because of their high cost or unavailability.
Dessouky says that Egyptian women’s shopping habits have changed since the revolution.
“Shoppers now target cheaper items no matter what the quality is,” explains the business woman. Despite the hassle of paying customs and shipment costs, Dessouky’s Facebook service saves her the cost of operating an actual shop.
“The number of customers definitely increased after the revolution, but most of them target the less expensive products,” she explains. “Most customers would give up on an expensive item they like and replace it with two or three mundane items that are less expensive.”
Facebook shopping is not all about imports — many local brands have opted to open up online ordering through Facebook to get rid of costs like renting store-space or having inventory in stock.
"Sometimes I simply check these groups to pass time, it seems to be a lovely way to fight boredom on a slow day," says Yasmine Atef. Atef started visiting these groups more than two years ago but focuses often on local sellers and designers.
"Facebook is convenient and time-saving," she says. "I am an avid fan of Dina Maghawry's Jewelry and while she was switching showrooms, I used the website and placed an order."
Some sellers choose to create their own websites, away from Facebook, like Style Treasure, Bunglow H and Mall To Go. Each website offers products from dozens of designers, international and local, and covers several departments like clothes, jewelry, and home accessories. Websites like Style Treasure and Bungalow H offer a little more reliability as the owners are identifiable and purchasing systems are set up with credit card capabilities.
On Facebook, sellers of imported goods often do so in the old “open day” style — the merchandise doesn't incur customs fees because items are imported as baggage of the group owner or their associates.
“It is a fair and less costly transaction for both the seller and the buyer," says Amira Helmy. "Only shipping money is added and of course the profit margin for the group owner," she adds.
One main disadvantage to Facebook shopping — you can’t try on the product before your receive it and if the size or the model appears different from the picture, there’s no way to give it back.