Update: customs bills comparisons: FedEx v DHL
FedEx: While the customs fees themselves are pretty reasonable: 10% tax and a .21% "Merchandise Processing Fee" on each item. The sucker punch: a self-imposed 'minimum' Merchandise Processing Fee of $25. Then a $5.50 advancement fee. So my bill was $42.50 in customs duties + $25 in processing charges + $5.50 advancement fee. $73.00 on $425 worth of goods.
DHL: 2.8% duty on my one pair of boots + $5.50 advancement fee, a grand total of $16.42 on $390 worth of goods. No processing fees.
Moral of the story: ask your international vendor to ship DHL if possible!!!
As I keep mentioning, the Euro is dropping, which I am fully embracing, online-shopping wise! Today I finally got my order in from Gateonline.it-- a pair of Margiela 22 knee high boots and two pairs of Prada leather peeptoe slingbacks... all for a whopping $468. They arrived in perfect condition, and I had them only send the boot box and not the Prada boxes to save on shipping. It seems some people were interested in my shopping experience, so I thought I'd share!
Why would I shop from a European site versus an American one? Mostly to avoid designer mark-ups. It's no secret that French designer goods retail for lower in France (like Longchamp, Vanessa Bruno) or that in all of Europe, Giorgio Armani and Valentino are not as hideously expensive as they are here. (And don't even THINK about Asia! I was pretty aghast to see the average price of Manolos around $800-900.) Plus a lot of designers make things that never come to the US-- shoe styles, bags, or small accessories, like scarves or gloves.
Besides YOOX.com, many European vendors with better prices (and sales!) are happy to ship state-side. YOOX.com and Net-A-Porter.com have US warehouses, so we don't have to worry about VAT, customs duties, or crazy shipping fees. Just remember that returns or exchanges might be a real pain to deal with!
YOOX.com [Italy, US]
Net-A-Porter.com [UK, US]
theOutnet.com (N-A-P's outlet site) [UK, US]
Set shipping costs, but you'll have to pay customs duties:
MyTheresa.com [Germany] - standard 2-day international shipping is pretty steep at 45 Euro, which is ok if you are buying a lot, but sometimes they have periods where the int'l shipping is only 10 Euro! Sale items are usually final sale, but for full-priced items, returns are free.
FarFetch.com [various EU] - a little marketplace of EU boutiques, and 2-day shipping is very reasonable
Matches [UK] - shipping is very expensive! (but returns are free)
Browns [UK] - shipping is pricey
You need to do the legwork on pricing out shipping, and you'll also have to pay customs:
Gateonline.it [Italy, in Italian only although they email back in English] - they are having an amazing sale on sunglasses right now. And remember the price is: (online-price-with-VAT) / [(what-you'll-actually-pay)*1.2]. You must use PayPal.
Byxxy.com [Italy] - if you know what size you wear, this is a great treasure trove for clothes **Note: They DO NOT ship to the US at this time -- they are aiming to by the end of this year**
Remember to make sure that VAT is not included (most sites have prices with VAT, which is about 20%). I got a pair of YSL boots from MyTheresa for 293 Euro + 10 Euro shipping ($394 USD at the time), and I got a DHL invoice for customs of $17. So a total cost of $411 for boots that retail for 630 Euro!
Gateonline.it uses FedEx for shipping, and since my order was over $250 USD, I had to fill out paperwork with the Dept of Homeland Security (!) as an importer. Obviously I am not a reseller, but it was kind of interesting nonetheless. I'll report back when I get that customs bill :)