Why is Overseas Purchasing so popular?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of Chinese students work as purchasing agents while study aboard. They can make up to 1500 to 2000 USD per month. For a huge income like this, the workload is pretty low. Just go shopping for a few times at fancy malls and go to UPS to ship it back to China, then money will come to you. It is the price difference that they make money from. 

By brief researching, I find some reasonable answers to this overseas purchasing.

-Demands in China grows. Part of people become richer than before and have extra money to consume luxury products. Students therefore take advantage of their studying overseas and make money out of it. Not only in the U.S., Europe, Japan, Korea, even Hong Kong are hot spots for this.

-Taxes are so high in China. Luxury products have a 17% added-value tax, a 5 to 10% business tax, and a 30% tariff. For cigarette and wine, tariff tax can go up to 50%, while cosmetics can be 150%.

*For example, price for Chanel N5 Eau de Parfum 100ml (3.4 FL. oz) is 132 USD on Chanel’s official website. In comparison, the price for this specific item can be 170 USD equivalent. So even purchasing agents charge $150 or 160, they will still have a market out there. They can definitely earn more if they have a huge and stable network for this. Perfume is just so-so. Think about handbags. They can earn 1000 USD for single Gucci and more for a Hérmes. Doing this for a year can probably give you a nice second-hand car.

*Actually this overseas purchasing is not just for luxury product. Sometimes, especially sales season, even M.A.C or The Body Shop is worthy doing this. Possible scenario on Black Friday could be like this. A Samsonite suitcase, two Coach totes, three Kate Spade purse, a pair of Air Jordan, six bottle of perfume and a dozen lipstick. When going back to China, register this suitcase after taking off all the price tags and wrapping paper. When landed, your round trip is sort of free and maybe some still have something left for a nice dinner with family.

– Another reason why study abroad students can earn money is because their are a lot of Chinese out there who believe if it is from the U.S., it is of better quality and it can’t be fake. This is just cliché and there is nothing to do to change this. Well, I’ve witnessed fake Micheal Kors been selling for 10 or 20 dollars when traveling in NYC.

– Last, but not the least, overseas purchasing can be very easy. The transactions are mostly online, so it’s just a few clicks. With PayPal’s support, it is also pretty safe.

Worthy mentioning, overseas purchasing can be illegal. It is a conduct of tax evasion in a sense.

The above are individuals doing overseas purchases, so what about a website which has hundreds of thousands of orders? Websites like this really exists. Many major online shopping website has started developing their own global purchase process: from pampers to mild powder, from food to health care products, from cosmetics to handbags, literally everything.

Before I stop, a counter overseas purchase is also getting popular. Chinese students studying abroad needs products especially food and ingredients from China. It is sometimes hard to find it in local supermarkets and price can be unreasonably high comparing with China. I understand it because those are all imported. Transportation across the Pacific Ocean can be very high. So websites like Yamibuy.com exist. You can find food, make-up there from China and other Asian countries. The website is in Chinese, so it can be exclusive in a way. My roommates have already buy snacks there for several times.


Author: Yue Zhang

Graduate student currently studying at University of Westminster, London. For my passion in storytelling, I am adventuring abroad to learn more.

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