Amazon offers free shipping to Singapore

SINGAPORE - Consumers addicted to online shopping may have one more reason to shop with The online retailer now offers free shipping to Singapore for orders above US$125 ($155), excluding taxes.

Announcing this on its website on Friday, Amazon said only goods it sells - which include books, music, movies and electronic goods - but not those from third-party sellers, will qualify for the AmazonGlobal Saver Shipping programme.

Singapore and India appear to be the first two countries in Asia to qualify for this new savings programme, according to the Amazon site.

A Straits Times reporter ordered a hardcover novel, Blu-ray movie and the Roku 2 media streamer for US$174 and saved on the usual US$26 in shipping costs.

Purchases that are in stock will arrive in 11 to 14 business days under the free shipping scheme, which excludes items weighing 9kg or more, gift cards and some oversized items.

Depending on the products, consumers may enjoy substantial savings. For instance, the Beats Solo HD on-Ear headphone and Beats wireless over-ear headphone are retailing for US$199 and US$279 (S$247 and S$346) on Amazon. In local stores, they cost $310 and $420 respectively.

Some items not for sale in Singapore, such as the Roku 2 media player, can also be bought on Amazon and shipped here for free.

But many consumer electronic items will still not be shipped here. They include the Samsung S4 smartphone, the Kindle tablet and its e-books here, and the Samsung Chromebook laptop.

Avid online shopper Yen Tang, 32, said she is disappointed. "Bigger-ticket items like laptops are more worth my while buying from Amazon and yet they don't ship here," said the consultant.

Last year, when she bought the Kindle e-reader from Amazon, she had to pay using a gift card and ship the item here via e-concierge services like vPost, as Amazon does not accept international credit cards.

Still, these kinks are not dissuading many avid shoppers.

"Lego bricks can cost half of what (they cost) in Singapore," said pilot Tim Xie, 39, who has bought many things including baby car seats and strollers from Amazon.

Another avid online shopper, Ms Nicole Teo, 38, said she is waiting to see how Amazon's aggressive marketing will change the shopping scene here.

"With its mind-boggling range of products, including brands we cannot get here, and cheaper items, it's a no-brainer where I'm going to shop now that shipping is free," said the property agent.

A recent PayPal study showed that Singapore's e-commerce market grew from $1.1 billion in 2010 to $1.4 billion in 2011. It is projected to hit $4.4 billion in 2015.

Local retailers are taking note of the rising threat, but they remain largely unfazed.

A spokesman for Courts said the impact is "limited". "When buying electrical and IT products online, buyers have to be aware of the risk of voltage incompatibility, which renders warranties void," she said.

Mr Ben Tan, Challenger chief operating officer, said that just as many customers are satisfied with their deliveries, many customers are also unhappy about delayed shipments and wrong deliveries.

"There is a service gap," said Mr Tan.

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