There was a time, not so very long ago, that bagging the best in Italian designer wear, French wine or luxury Belgian chocolate required an expensive tour of Europe’s great cities and their exotic upmarket boutiques and bustling food markets. Bargain hunters also had a real set of challenges to overcome with regards to the old complicated national retail restrictions and the prospect of sneaking all their new found goods past the eagle eyed gentlemen in the green lane at customs.

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But now a combination of rapid Internet expansion and a levelling of European tax duties has changed all that. With a veritable explosion of European wide shopping sites springing up at a dizzying rate, and most existing stores offering very reasonable next day delivery to anywhere in Europe, now is the perfect time to pack your virtual bags and set off on a European shopping trip, taking in the very best European stores and boutiques without ever having to pay £15 for a cup of coffee and a croissant again.

Your Tailor Made Shopping Experience

Just like in the real world, every virtual shopper will have their own special way of doing things. The more adventurous will simply grab their backpack and set off with only their European rail card to guide them, randomly criss-crossing the continent and stopping off wherever they fancy. Online, this technique can lead you to discover all sorts of hidden gems such as the German outdoor clothes specialist Acronym.de, which sells a wide range of handmade extreme weather street clothing with a mindboggling range of built in features, or the Italian artisan glass merchant Artofvenice.com, which has its physical store based just outside the San Zulian Church in Venice. Foodies will be delighted to stumble upon ChateauOnline selling discounted fine wines or fromages.com, billed as "France's best-loved cheese Website."

For those of you who get their kicks wondering about small town car boot sales or random flea markets, European auction sites such as QXL or Germany’s AndSold, are set up like Ebay, where shoppers from all over the world do battle over one off collectables, antiques and novelty items.
If you prefer to plan ahead and rely on your trusty guide book, you will also be well catered for. Simply swap your Lonely Planet for one of the new price comparison sites such as DealPilot, StreetPrices, Shopsonthenet or the French version of Shopping.com. All these sites list literally thousands of European stores from where you can plan your route and get where you need to go in most time efficient way possible.

If you just want to relax and take a luxury weekend shopping trip to one the fashion capital’s of the world. Sites such as BooHoo, Bluefly and Shopbop house the very best of the major European fashion houses all under the same roof, and are set up specifically to cater to a European wide market. BooHoo, for example, offers free delivery on all its purchases, but if you can’t wait that long, they also offer very reasonable next day delivery to Europe. For those who crave more luxurious surroundings and to hell with the cost, all the major fashion boutiques have their own sites and will happily ship Europe wide.

Is it Safe?

Until now, many European shoppers have been put off using foreign based stores because of the risk of complications in shipping and returns. The thought of having to deal with faulty goods or tracking down missing orders from overseas seemed too much hassle to be worthwhile. However, due to new rules agreed by the European Union, Internet shoppers now have more rights than ever before when they pay by credit card or need to make returns. These new rules include a 14 day cooling off period for all online purchases, and many online shoppers will no longer have to return the items that they no longer want.

Callers to customer service phone lines can also no longer be charged at a premium rate, and merchants cannot add any surcharges to purchases made by card. Shipping times were also a major worry for buyers, but with the increased competition among international couriers, prices for next day delivery to Europe have come crashing down, and those choosing free shipping can expect to receive their items in just 5-7 days.

Like so much else in life, the Internet has brought Europe ever closer, and all those once distant and exotic goods are now instantly available at your fingertips, and from the comfort of your own home. With the extra protections now in place for international buyers, there is nothing left to stop you, so why not take a virtual trip around Europe? You can discover the best shopping on the continent, and pick up some bargains along the way.

Feel free to leave your comment we love to hear from you.
Steven Capocci
About the Author:

Steven Capocci is an Internet commerce expert and blogger now based in Malta. He encourages fellow ex-pats missing those home comforts to do their online shopping at a great variety of stores all offering next day delivery to Europe and beyond.

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