If this title sounds more promising than what you will learn from this post, I apologize. I just wanted to share another shopping tip, having just gone through the process of trying to buy a pair of jeans for one of my kids.
I’ve previously written about Grocery Shopping in Johannesburg and have figured out a fairly good routine, but clothes shopping continues to be a thorn in my side since we’ve moved to South Africa. I am a rather atypical expat spouse (even though Noisette doesn’t believe it) in that I do not actually enjoy shopping. Because of this I greatly value the convenience of shops that deliver expected quality and style, year in year out. Shops that I can rely on to always carry what I need, the few times that I need it. The GAP was that trusted address for me back home.
One thing actually working in my favor here is the fact that our children wear school uniforms, so the need to go clothes shopping is greatly reduced. As much as I might gripe about my trips to McCullagh & Bothwell, they are easy compared to the kind of searching one has to do to find good quality and affordable clothes in South Africa. The best of your options is probably Woolworth, where you’ll be going anyway for your groceries, and the one in Fourways Mall has a nice section for home goods and clothing. However, I would say the quality is so-so, not great, and you also never know if they’ll have what you need. It seems like South African stores buy their wares in batches (a friend joked that she thinks European suppliers have special “Africa” batches judging form the poor quality even of branded products), so that the sizes will be picked through without any new supplies coming in.
You can imagine my delight when in my despair I returned to the GAP website, just to see all the nice things I couldn’t have, and discovered that they now offer “Secure International Checkout by FiftyOne.” When you’re signed in, you will see a little box at the upper right hand side saying “Shipping to:” and an American flag next to it. Well, click on that flag to get a list of countries to choose from, and South Africa is actually one of them!
What’s more, your order will now be calculated in that country’s currency (unless you don’t want it, there is still an option to select the currency separately), and you can use an international credit card (only Visa or Mastercard). However – you knew there was a but, didn’t you? – my excitement was short-lived, and I didn’t end up trying this out so I might report back to you if it works. As you will see below, an order for a few shirts and boxer shorts coming to ZAR490 ended up costing ZAR1192 once the shipping and import duties are factored in. That’s almost two and a half times as much as if I had shipped this somewhere in the U.S.!
I know it’s not the GAP’s fault. International shipping is expensive and South African import duties on clothing are high (as I’ve found out when trying to ship baseball pants – even used ones – to my Alexandra Baseball team).
So your best bet is to do what I do: Find someone travelling to South Africa and have them bring it here. This is one of the very useful aspects of Joburg Expat – I constantly get to know prospective expats trying to get their bearings about life in South Africa, and so I’m pretty much assured a constant stream of people not just coming here to South Africa, but having a huge container at their disposal to boot!