INTERNET shopping has gained traction in Jamaica over recent years, particularly with many people now able to access top brands at the click of a button and have their goods delivered to their doorsteps. It's a business niche that Global Courier Services' CEO Christopher Barrett has mined well as Internet shopping redefines the retail landscape.
Last year saw Black Friday, (the day after Thanksgiving in the United States) sales going up by 25 per cent on 2009's figure largely due to Internet shopping. This is remarkable given that the world is in the middle of a recession. In fact Global Courier saw its sales on Black Friday go up a whopping 30 per cent on the previous year's numbers. This was driven in the main by Jamaican members of Global Courier Services taking advantage of the sales offered in the United States on Black Friday.
"That together with the number of member sign-ups we got that day indicated to us the growth of Internet shopping in Jamaica. There is no question that Internet shopping is here to stay," said Barrett.
Global Courier Services has managed to attract customers who can use its US mailing address and its ability to bring goods in, but the company is now looking to plug into on-demand shopping. This will see it telling potential customers about the products on offer on the Internet and then deliver them to customers. This will entail showcasing a number of Internet shopping websites, particularly those that offer substantial discounts on brand-name items.
"Global Courier will bring these sites to the attention of Jamaicans. So rather than wait for them to find something on demand, we want them to purchase other items, rather like going to Walmart or MegaMart in Jamaica.
"Many people do not have an international credit card and therefore have difficulty making a purchase online. Here they can come to us and we can use our own international credit cards to make purchases on their behalf. However, that is an inconvenience to the customer and we are now looking to address that. The problem right now is that many online merchants do not accept Jamaican cards because the banks like NCB are located locally. What is needed is a card that is not prohibitive and satisfies all online merchants," declared the Global Courier Services CEO.
Barrett acknowledges that traditional retail shopping in Jamaica is still potent and will always will be. His business proposition is to provide an alternative, one that can co-exist side by side and in fact complement traditional shopping. Global Courier is the country's leading Internet shopping company and is looking to make the process easier and more convenient without people worrying about whether they have an international credit card -- they can still do business. Granted, there are duties to be paid on ordered imported items. These charges are itemised on the customer's Global Courier services bill.
Barrett, who has pilot training experience, started the company back in 2002. It now has around ten thousand members and that figure continues to grow. It is now looking to transition from simply being a US mailing address company into an Internet shopping web company, pointing customers to the best deals around. The company has a vibrant social networking presence and is on both Facebook and Twitter. Global Courier Services delivers direct to any specific address anywhere on the island, with a free-of-cost delivery service anywhere in the New Kingston area. It delivers everything from a pin to an anchor.
Many small clothing boutiques are popping up and whereas before they had to navigate through concession red tape or rely on Air Jamaica personnel bringing in goods, they are now turning to Internet purchasing. Around 70 per cent of Global Courier business comes from personal shopping and over 100 local companies use its services. It has a package warehouse in Florida before sending the items to its air carrier and then the customer is informed more often than not by text messaging that their requested item has arrived. The entire operation is customer-service oriented.
Later this year Global Courier is looking to open up a location in the second city, Montego Bay, and later down the road consider franchising the business. The Global Courier model is already replicated in the English-speaking Caribbean, particularly in Trinidad & Tobago. Barrett has no plans to enter the Caribbean arena, mainly because Jamaica has the most substantial population.