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Global Consumers Get Early Start on Holiday Shopping Season

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While Americans are gearing up for holiday shopping to begin this Thanksgiving weekend, the international holiday shopping season is already well underway, having kicked off on October 6th, according to data from Borderfree (Nasdaq:BRDR), a market leader in international cross-border ecommerce solutions. In recent years, cross-border shopping, payments and shipping logistics have become more streamlined, enabling consumers to order from online merchants no matter where they are located. Global shoppers are growing increasingly aware of this new level of access, and many are crossing off holiday shopping lists with products from their favorite American retailers while taking advantage of seasonal deals and promotions.

Although the season’s biggest deals are still ahead, countries in specific regions are showing early signs of a strong holiday season. Despite recent strength in the U.S. dollar, international markets with currencies pegged to the dollar are showing particularly solid growth. U.S. retailers selling online to the Middle Eastern countries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have seen sales growth of more than 30 percent year-over-year during the early holiday shopping period, according to Borderfree data. Average order values (AOVs) are also the highest in the Middle East with Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia all exceeding $400USD, a modest increase from average order values in those markets during the rest of the year.

Similarly, certain Asian countries like Hong Kong, whose currency tends to trade in a tight range to the dollar, are experiencing double-digit growth early on in the season. However, there is a significant differential in AOV among Asian countries – ranging from $317 in Hong Kong to $258 in China to $174 in Korea. More mature markets, like Canada, the UK and Australia, see lower AOVs as U.S. retailers have launched targeted promotions and free shipping campaigns designed to increase overall sales and drive repeat shopping.

Asia, including Hong Kong, mainland China and the broader continent, has become more of a strategic focus for U.S. retailers for the 2014 holiday season. Last holiday season, U.S. retailers saw the highest growth in China, and they are eager to capture Asia’s high growth potential during this holiday season. This year, Borderfree has seen a shift in the top markets for U.S. retail sales from European countries like Germany and Switzerland to Asian countries like China, Japan and Singapore.

Borderfree and Alipay Bringing Chinese Shoppers to Black Friday

With Asia top of mind this holiday season, Borderfree is collaborating with Alipay, China’s leading e-payments service provider, to break down language, cultural, payments and logistical barriers that have made the Chinese consumer market particularly challenging for U.S. retailers with a pilot program that combines Alipay ePass with the Borderfree platform. Five iconic American retailers launched on the pilot at the start of the fourth quarter and are already seeing strong sales to consumers in China.

“Chinese shoppers are very savvy about finding great deals and savings, whether they come from a local retailer or a U.S. retailer overseas,” said Michael DeSimone, CEO of Borderfree. “Many Chinese shoppers are already aware of and interested in taking advantage of Black Friday to tap into the best deals of the year from American retailers. While it isn’t yet as big as China’s Singles Day among local shoppers, Black Friday still remains one of the biggest opportunities for U.S. retailers to get in front of the Chinese consumer market.”

Dissecting the Habits of the Global Shopper

How consumers like to shop for the holidays varies from country to country, pointing to unique cultural differences that U.S. retailers should become familiar with and take into consideration when tailoring promotions for specific markets. The Chinese, for example, are typically late-night shoppers, with major peaks in sales occurring between 11:00pm and 12:00am, and sometimes continuing into the early hours of the morning. Many savvy retailers will launch holiday deals to coincide with this peak shopping window.

Canadians, in contrast, prefer shopping during the weekday around 11:00am, with sales peaking at noon, before seeing a significant drop off at 5:00pm and then another spike around 6:00pm. Australians are less likely to shop during the workday, but hit online shopping hard between 8:00pm and 9:00pm.

Comparisons between northern and southern European countries also yield interesting data. Shoppers in southern Europe, like Spain and Italy, are keen to shop during the day and less in the evenings. The exception is on Sunday, where online shopping is quiet throughout most of the day until around 3:00 to 4:00pm. In Northern Europe, especially in countries like Germany and the Sweden, consumers prefer instead to shop in the evening after work around 7:00pm. Additionally, unlike southern Europe’s use of Sunday as a “day of rest” from online shopping, northern European countries shop on Sunday all day long.

Holiday Product Category Highlights

The hottest gift items for the holidays change from year to year. The following product categories from U.S. retailers have seen a marked shift in interest from international shoppers.

  • Ready to party: Party clothes are trending up, showing an increase of more than 100 percent year-over-year
  • Oh, baby: Diaper bags are trending down over last year (down approximately 20 percent), but baby clothes are up significantly (up more than 100 percent year over year)
  • International jetsetters: Suitcases (up approximately 250 percent year-over-year) and cosmetic bags (up more than 80 percent year-over-year) are all trending up

About Borderfree

Borderfree is a market leader in international cross-border ecommerce, operating a technology and services platform that the world’s most iconic brands rely on to expand globally and transact with customers in more than 100 countries and territories and more than 60 currencies worldwide. Borderfree manages all aspects of the international shopping experience, including site localization, multi-currency pricing, payment processing, fraud management, landed cost calculation, customs clearance and brokerage and global logistics services while maintaining the integrity of our customers’ brand and the consumer experience. Borderfree is headquartered in New York City with offices in Tel Aviv, Toronto, Dublin and Shanghai. The company trades on the NASDAQ under the symbol BRDR. For more information, visit www.borderfree.com.

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