For most online merchants, it's not a question of whether to sell internationally, but how to go about it. The potential that international markets represent for online merchants large and small is simply too big to pass up. The dramatic increase in potential customer base, the far higher growth rates for e-commerce in nations outside the U.S., and the value of geographic diversification cannot be understated.
Japanese fast-fashion giant Uniqlo is coming under fire for what critics say are harsh and dangerous working conditions at the Chinese factories that make its rainbow-colored array of low-cost skinny jeans and cashmere sweaters. Undercover researchers from the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) found that workers at two Uniqlo suppliers in southern China were being underpaid, overworked and subject to unsafe conditions, including sewage-covered floors, poor ventilation and sweltering temperatures.
Sellers are reporting major technical problems with the U.S. Postal Service's Click-N-Ship, a service they use to print online postage, with one avid user calling the glitches "the biggest e-commerce story of the month." Last week, the service had an outage, reported on Ecommerce EKG and on the website IsItDownRightNow.com.
J.Crew raised a few eyebrows last week when it introduced a women's size 000. Shopping news site Racked noted the new size would be the equivalent to a size XXXS and referenced a commenter who said the physical product featured a 23" waist. A spokesperson for J.Crew defended the addition, telling Today.com, "We're simply addressing the demand coming from Asia for smaller sizes than what we carried. Our sizes typically run big and the Asia market tends to run small ... To further put into perspective, these sizes add up to the smallest possible percentage of our overall sizing assortment."
Convinced that consumers are finally ready to shop online for Picassos and choice Persian rugs in addition to car parts and Pez dispensers, Sotheby's, the blue-chip auction house, and eBay, the internet shopping giant, plan to announce Monday that they've formed a partnership to stream Sotheby's sales worldwide. Starting this fall, most of Sotheby's New York auctions will be broadcast live on a new section of eBay's website. Eventually the auction house expects to extend the partnership, adding online-only sales and streamed auctions taking place anywhere from Hong Kong to Paris to London.
Brookstone, the luxury-gadget retailer, won bankruptcy court approval of its plan to sell the chain to a group of Chinese buyers for about $174 million that will be used to pay creditors. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Linehan Shannon yesterday in Wilmington, Delaware, approved the sale to a company backed by the Chinese conglomerate Sanpower Group and the Hong Kong-based private equity firm Sailing Capital. The sale is the cornerstone of the retailer's bankruptcy exit plan, also approved today. "Today marks a new chapter in Brookstone's history," CEO Jim Speltz said in an emailed statement.