Though there have been a string of big sales events taking place in South Korea recently, nothing can beat the scale of the annual U.S. Black Friday sales set to kick off at midnight in the U.S., or 2 p.m. Friday in Korea.
On Black Friday — falling the day after Thanksgiving, among the biggest U.S. holidays of the year — retailers and store brands across the U.S. will offer bargain deals and large discounts, some reaching as high as 90 percent, on numerous product categories.
Though the signature American shopping bonanza is most famous for the swarms of people physically shoving their way through crowds to grab mega-cheap in-store goods, many Black Friday deals can also be found on U.S.-based e-commerce websites and online store brands.
There is also Cyber Monday, an online-only sales event with major price markdowns launched by small and large retailers held the Monday after Black Friday, though some start sales earlier.
This means that even those living outside the U.S. can take full advantage of the flagship American sales period to purchase electronics, home appliances, clothing, toys and other goods at bargain prices hard to ignore. It just takes a couple of extra steps and a bit more time.
Last year, Koreans directly purchased goods from the U.S. worth around 800 billion won ($698 million) during the Black Friday sales period, and the figures are expected to surpass 1 trillion won this year, according to the Korea Customs Service.
The following are step-by-step guidelines accompanied by some helpful tips for those in Korea who want, but are unsure of how, to navigate through the Black Friday shopping process.
Step 1: Prepare an international credit card
The foremost thing to have ready before shopping on an online store based in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world is a credit card that supports international transactions.
|A man makes an online payment via an international credit card. (123rf)|
Most Korean banks issue cards registered under the Visa or Mastercard brands, to which an international payment option can be easily added. Credit cards are also useful when requesting refunds, typically possible within seven days of the purchase date.
Step 2: Register on an international shipping support site
Though some U.S. online shopping sites offer direct shipping to overseas location, there is a greater chance that the store you want to shop at does not support international deliveries, or does so only at exorbitant prices.
This is where Korean international shipping support companies — Malltail, Ohmyzip, eHANEX and Wemakeprice Box, to name a few — step in. These firms provide users with a free local warehouse address to which they can send purchases.
After the items arrive at the warehouse, the shipping assisting providers take care of the remaining steps, delivering the users’ merchandise to their Korean addresses. The standard shipping costs to Korea vary by company, depending on the weight and volume of the packages.
Given the abundance of such services, one should compare the costs, delivery speed, exclusive benefits or discounts, as well as refund and exchange policies offered by each company.
For instance, Malltail is offering general discount coupons as well as exclusive benefits to customers who make an international payment using their partner credit card brands — Citi, Lotte, Hana and BC.
Ohmyzip may ensure faster delivery during the Black Friday sales period, as it has tied up with Korean Air delivery planes to ensure quick shipping. It is also offering shipping discount promotions right now. Be sure to check out other shipping support services to find the best and most cost-effective option to fit your shopping needs.
|Through a video on its website, eHANEX explains its shipping support system. (eHANEX)|
Note that some shipping support firms offer multiple warehouse addresses in the U.S. As each U.S. state follows a different sales tax system across differing product categories, the final payment price of a product can be lower or higher depending on the receiving address.
Be sure to send your items to the most cost- and time-effective location. There are no state or local sales taxes in Delaware, but delivery is slower since there are no direct flights from Delaware to Korea, while New Jersey does not levy a sales tax on clothing or footwear.
Step 3: Search for the best Black Friday deals
Now that you have an international credit card and a shipping address in hand, you are ready to begin your Black Friday shopping spree.
Some popular shopping websites to visit include Amazon, eBay, Saks Fifth Avenue, Gap, Ralph Lauren, GNC, Nike and 6PM, among others. It is important to browse through multiple websites, given prices of the same product can vary by seller.
Nextag.com and Camelcamelcamel.com are some of the most popular product price comparison service providers in the U.S. Users can even calculate the shipping costs and the amount of tax to be levied on products by entering the zip code of the shipping address.
For those seeking more shopping aid, Malltail has just opened an informative website (www.blackfridays.kr) featuring popular items and discounted deals organized by category, as well as purchase tips by brand.
Moreover, accessing certain online stores through “cashback” websites like Ebates can earn you some additional cash while shopping. Simply log in to Ebates, enter a retail website through links provided, shop and make a purchase. The cashback is issued after the order is reported to the firm.
Major Korean credit card companies are offering cashback for payments made on a number of popular websites as well. For instance, Shinhan Card (Nov. 27-30) and BC Card (until Dec. 15) are offering up to 10 percent (for a maximum 20,000 won) cashback for payments over 100,000 won made through Amazon and ihubvita. Lotte, Hyundai, KB Kookmin, Citi, Woori and Hana are also holding similar cashback promotions.
It is wise to open an account with an online retailer of your choice, enter the shipping information and preselect the desired items in advance before the Black Friday sales officially start, as the websites are likely to see high user traffic once the clock strikes midnight.
Step 4: Check Korean import regulations
Before making an order, make sure that the products you wish to purchase meet South Korea’s import regulations. All restricted items are discarded during customs check, in line with customs protocol.
Lithium batteries, Spray-type cosmetics, processed meat and adult toys and products are some restricted items. Other items are not entirely restricted, but limited to a certain amount or volume.
For instance, up to six bottles of vitamins and health supplements and one bottle of perfume under 60 milliliters and one bottle of alcohol under one liter are permitted for entry into Korea. An additional tax is levied on alcohol as well.
When purchasing electronics, be mindful that only one electronic product can pass customs per address per day. Since American electronics products operate on 110 volts, make sure to purchase products marked “free voltage” for easy plug-in conversion in Korea.
Note that your goods may also be subject to additional import taxes, depending on the total value of your purchased goods. The Korean government currently does not levy any taxes for purchases below $200 including shipping costs.
|Workers prepare televisions for delivery at Malltail’s shipping warehouse in New Jersey in the U.S. (Malltail)|
Step 5: Place an order, wait for delivery
Complete your Black Friday shopping by placing an order — enter your credit card information and ship your merchandise to the warehouse address of the shipping support company of your choice.
You must then complete a form informing the warehouse operators which products you have purchased from which vendors.
Delivery can take between two to 10 business days, depending on the shipping speed selected at purchase. UPS and Fedex allow users to track shipping status online.
Once the goods arrive at the warehouse, users must pay the shipping fee, which depends on the weight and volume of the merchandise and varies by company. After payment is made, the packages are delivered to Korea after clearing customs.
At this point, the international shopping process may seem like quite a hassle. However, remember that Black Friday comes only once a year and mega discounts of this scale are rare. At the end of the day, that TV or that coat you purchased at half the price in Korea may have been worth the extra effort.