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Online shoppers here second to HK in Asia Pacific for overseas buys

This article is more than 12 months old

Online shoppers in Singapore are second only to their counterparts from Hong Kong in Asia Pacific when it comes to making purchases from overseas, particularly from Chinese websites.

An Ipsos study commissioned by PayPal found that around 73 per cent of online shoppers here bought items from overseas in the past year, with 14 per cent shopping exclusively on foreign websites. Ipsos is a market research and consulting firm based in France.

Released yesterday, the results showed that 75 per cent of shoppers in Hong Kong made cross-border online purchases.

Ipsos surveyed more than 34,000 respondents in 31 countries from March to May, including 1,000 from Singapore.

Clothing, footwear and accessories topped the list of most popular items bought online, with around 70 per cent of respondents in Asia buying at least one item in the past year.

Global shoppers mostly went to online stores in China, thanks to better prices.

The rise of international e-commerce in Singapore is a positive sign as trade protectionism sentiments grows around the world, a panel of industry insiders concluded while discussing the PayPal report at Republic Plaza yesterday.

The trend towards protectionism means businesses must adjust to changing headwinds, said Asian Trade Centre senior fellow Alex Capri at the roundtable organised by PayPal.

Referring to the ongoing US-China trade conflict, PayPal senior vice president of international markets Rohan Mahadevan said the problem is knowing with certainty where these winds are blowing.

"If there is going to be a trade tariff, then let us know when and where, and (businesses) will figure out how to make this change work. The uncertainty and variability is the biggest challenge," said Dr Mahadevan.

Singapore Management University's Professor Annie Koh, who chairs the finance and investment committee of GovTech Singapore's board, said companies can also identify "sweet spots" within global trade flows.

Setting up a presence in Vietnam, for example, can allow firms to leap over trade barriers, said Prof Koh. This year, the country sought to set up three special economic zones that would grant concessions to foreign investors. Because of such concessions, Prof Koh said businesses in Vietnam stand to benefit from having more access to markets which others have difficulty entering.

Free trade agreements, such as the China-Singapore deal that eliminates tariffs for 95 per cent of exports to China, are also opportunities for firms that face trade protectionism elsewhere, she said.

BUSINESS & FINANCE