BUYING foreign goods online will become easier for cash-strapped customers when newcomer UnionOne Express launches its "shopcash" service today.
The "newest offer in the market" will allow shoppers to borrow money for their overseas purchases, said Operations Manager Eduardo Anderson.
Individuals and small businesses can get funds to order, ship and clear their items through Customs using the company's "full-tier" system.
The shopping loans will be provided by UnionOne's parent company, First Union Financial Group Limited, and will be approved and disbursed according to existing loan procedures.
The company concedes that it is trying to penetrate "a highly competitive business arena" and is going up against the "the giants" of the industry, such as Tara Courier Services and Mailpac Services.
But research reveals that 95 per cent of the market is untapped, and could yield $3 million to $5 million in first-quarter profits, Anderson said.
Existing players have been expanding in recent years and new entrants have joined the market.
Finance is a crucial factor in online shopping. After Scotia introduced its Visa Debit Card last year it recorded 11,000 international transactions in October alone.
The September to Christmas period is generally the strongest season for online shopping firms, recording 40 to 60 per cent of annual sales.
While some of those purchases are gifts, many are high-end goods for the home, often electrical items, priced up to US$200 ($17,000).
UnionOne is promising customers "assisted ordering" to help shoppers who are not computer savvy. "Trained retailers" will be on hand to assist persons who are not versed in the "art of online shopping", Anderson said.
Air freight services will be provided by AJAS Limited and UnionOne will take the shipments to locations nearest to the customers for pickup.
The month-old business is set to roll out in three phases; online shopping, courier and export services.
"Persons can use their own or UnionOne credit cards to shop."
Members will also be provided with Miami mailing addresses for shopping.
Shoppers will be provided with incentives for membership and may earn commission if they refer other shoppers to the company.
Businesses can also give UnionOne loyalty and membership cards to their employees as bonuses.
"The systems also work for parents who wish to allow their children to shop using their cards," he said.
First Union employees and new hires will staff the 11 branches and six agent locations across the island.