Save Costs When Buying Overseas Items and Importing Them to South Africa

When you are buying imported brand-name items in local South African shops, the price is a bit higher than what you would pay when you were living in the source country. The general rule is that buying in bulk from a wholesaler is always much cheaper than buying individual items from a retailer, that is if you are buying to sell. What if you just want to do personal shopping, to buy things for your own use? Can you save money by buying directly from overseas shops or is it much cheaper to buy in local shops? To answer this question, you have to look at the costs involved in importing a product.

Costs of Importing

The costs of importing include the primary cost, which is the retail price of the product, plus shipping charges and duty. Local shops will add a margin for profit and other operational costs, which increases the product price.

Import Duty and Tax

Depending on the country in which you live, customs duty and tax are costs which often increase the final price of the import by a huge margin. The amount of import tax and duty charged on a particular item differ by country, in some countries it is fairly low and reasonable, some items are duty-free, but in other countries import duty can be very high, increasing the item price by more than 40%. As you can see, your country’s import rules and regulations can make it hard for you to procure overseas items at a reasonable cost.

Shipping Charges

If your overseas-based supplier is packing and sending the items to your home address in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Seychelles or anywhere in the world, the company will include shipping charges in the final price. The company hires a shipping agent or cargo carrier such as DHL, Fedex, TNT or Post Office to pick up the packages, deliver them at the port, and ship them to their destination by air or sea.

DHL Website
DHL Website

How to Save on Shipping Charges

You can save a lot of money if you understand how cargo carriers pack and prepare goods for shipping. Shipping agents and forwarders want to make maximum use of space occupied by packages. That is why shipping is charged based on volume and weight. When your items arrive at the port, the packages are repacked and put in boxes or containers. You can either ship your items in separate packages or you can consolidate them into a single package. The volume and weight of each box is measured and charges are applied. You have to find out from your courier if your items are going to be charged based on volume or weight.

Reduce Volume and Number of Boxes

In order to save on shipping, you have to consolidate your packages into one shipment that occupies less space (volume).This will reduce the volumetric charges applied on your shipment. As an example, let’s say you bought multiple items from six online stores in the USA. Your orders will be sent to your billing address as six separate packages. Your package forwarder should repack the items and combine them so that you have one or fewer boxes in the cargo.

Buy Multiple Items to Achieve Maximum Weight

Couriers such as DHL will charge shipping based on maximum weight. As an example, if you buy an item weighing less than or equal to 500g, DHL will charge you an estimated fee ranging from US$12 to US$46 for international shipping, depending on the parcel destination. In this case, if you buy a single item weighing only 200g, shipping costs will be very high for you, unless you buy 500g of items to distribute and reduce the shipping cost per gram. Buying items in batches is recommended if they are small and lightweight e.g. Brazilian hair, bracelets, USB memory stick, phone casings, screen protectors, t-shirts etc.

You can choose to send your items through a Post Office courier, which is usually cheaper than a commercial courier and in some cases free if the supplier has a partnership with the Post Office.

However, sending items by Post Office is not a secure option, especially to countries like South Africa where sometimes parcels go missing.

Buy From Factory Shops

Whether it’s domestic or international shopping, one of the best places to get the lowest price is buying directly from the factory shop. Instead of buying that FILA shoe from Edgars, Woolworths, Meikles or Famous Footwear, you can get a better price at the FILA factory outlet store.

Look for Deals and Discounts at Retail Stores

A lot of well-known retailers and stores run promotions on a regular basis. Deals and offers are usually found on month ends, holidays, festive seasons and weekends.