Egyptians embrace online shopping

Egyptians shop for children's clothes in downtown Cairo. While some are hesitant, many Egyptians also shop online. [Khaled Desouki/AFP]

Egyptians shop for children's clothes in downtown Cairo. While some are hesitant, many Egyptians also shop online. [Khaled Desouki/AFP]

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Online shopping has taken off in Egypt, where consumers like Ahmed Matar are increasingly turning to online chat forums to ask questions they once posed to traditional sales people.

"Please, what are the features of this tablet?" asks Matar, who is on the market for a new computer. "Does it support dial-up connections?"

Like Matar, many Egyptians are setting aside time for shopping -- online.

In less than two years, online shopping sites created by licensed companies have taken off in Egypt, as have unofficial sites created through social media sites such as Facebook, users told Al-Shorfa.

There is high demand for such sites in Egypt, with Souq.com, one of the country's largest online shopping sites, reporting millions of visitors a month and Egyptian shopping site Jumia.com attracting thousands of customers daily.

In addition to Souq.com and Jumia.com, other websites like Nefsak and Offerna, which provides daily offers on tourism and different kinds of sporting activities in Egypt, have emerged.

Noha Ibrahim, 29, who works at a bank, said online shopping has enabled her to purchase top brand accessories at low prices.

"The regular shops sell foreign-made and imported accessories such as watches and women's handbags at double their original prices, but online shopping websites offer them at more competitive prices and sometimes, you can find rare items that are not available in Egypt," she said.

Since people are preoccupied with their daily routines, said Marwa Abdul Daem, 40, a logistical services company worker, online shopping is an easy way to access "luxury at any time and even during work breaks, without needing to navigate Cairo's overcrowded streets".

"These websites give you many services that make it easier to buy products since there are comparison features among different brands of the same product as well as price comparisons," she said.

Local manufacturers can benefit

Most shopping websites sell a variety of products, from electronic devices and smartphones to furniture and household goods such as pots and pans.

In addition to offering foreign brands, online shopping sites in Egypt have helped many local manufacturers market their products, particularly leather goods, shoes and clothing.

Adel al-Nashrati, a 36-year-old accountant, said he has discovered many locally-manufactured leather goods and clothes by visiting Egyptian online shopping websites.

"I used to find it easier to buy imported goods because they are of higher quality, but I have recently discovered many Egyptian-made products that are of comparable quality," he said.

"The Egyptian market has had a healthy appetite for online shopping," said Jeremy Doutté, managing director of Jumia.com in Egypt. "We have records showing that some customers have bought from our website more than 10 times, which is an indicator of high demand for online shopping."

Online shopping websites do face some difficulties, Doutté said, including the reluctance of some consumers to pay for goods over the internet using their credit cards.

To overcome this, online shopping forums such as Jumia.com and Souq.com offer alternative methods of payment, such as cash payment upon receipt of the purchased items, he said.

Building consumer confidence

Despite the growing demand for online retail, many still prefer traditional shopping.

Jalal Abdul Fattah said he prefers to see products with his own eyes before buying so he can ensure they are in good condition.

"I do not trust online shopping because I cannot see the seller or talk with him, so there is no way for me to feel comfortable," he said.

Azza Mahmoud said she is reluctant to use her credit card to pay online because online shopping is still new in Egypt.

"I am afraid of sharing my personal bank account information and I do not think that safety for paying through the internet is at the same level as in western countries," she said.

Some online shopping companies in Egypt are taking steps to increase customer confidence.

Amr Sadoudi, director general of Souq.com, said in a statement that the website is working with government authorities such as the Consumer Protection Agency and NGOs to reinforce legislation designed to regulate online commerce in Egypt.

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