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The 'big mama' of online shopping |


The 'big mama' of online shopping

WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng -

With over 35 million Filipinos registered online, it would seem to be a “dunk shot” that fashion shopping online would be one of the major growth areas for business and commercial growth. After all, you’d be merely coupling the fascination Filipinos have for social networking and going online, with our proclivity for fashion and shopping. Make it easy, make it convenient, and it would seem that our hearts, minds and pockets would follow, right?

The brain trust behind the newest online shopping site, Zalora, will be counting on that; but more importantly, they’re prescient enough to know what the pitfalls so far have been with the Philippine market vis-à-vis online shopping. Payment and delivery have been major issues impeding said growth. I’ve shopped on Amazon and “died” with the international shipping charges (how many of us would then look for a relative/friend based in the US?). And let’s face it, not everyone has a credit card. Social networking site Multiply prospered here as a showcase for start-ups and budding entrepreneurs, but even in this arena, vendors would require bank deposits or insist on meeting the buyers (and vice-versa, as the trust factor is a real problem).

Ease and efficiency are the rallying cries of Zalora, according to managing director Paulo Campos. With a fleet of Z-riders, Zalora offers free delivery within Metro Manila, and accepts returns within 30 days. Besides credit card payments, it accepts G-Cash, PayPal, bank deposits, and COD terms if within Metro Manila. As of this writing, Zalora has signed up over 150 clothing and accessories brands, with over 5,000 products in its catalog. From Folded & Hung, to Adidas and Nike, to local independent designers, they’ve all seen Zalora as a viable site to be associated with... take a bow, Pedro Domingues and Gigi Mabanta. And beyond Fashion & Accessories, a Home and Houseware section has risen within the Zalora site.

At its recent official launch held at the steamy Skye, the curious, the converted and the fashion-conscious all converged to make the launch one of the most successful and well-attended ones of the year. Loved the fact that Zalora got a favorite local band Techy Romantics as one of the musical acts. So if we’re looking for a site that aspires to be the “mother” of all shopping sites, Zalora is staking its claim; a worthy one, if I may say so!

Time and space travel... via novels

Some people scoff at fiction or adamantly insist that it’s only non-fiction that portrays reality. But I’ve always taken the view that an enriched reality, as portrayed in the best novels, hold a mirror to society and life, allowing us to move in time and space, to help us learn from, and understand, our own humanity. And when this is accompanied by a storyline that excites, entertains and transfixes us, that’s a “cherry on the top.” The three novels today take us to London’s East End in the Victorian era, to today’s English countryside and the end of a way of life, and to the Balkans.

Traveling through time and space with novels that deal with the Victorian era, today’s English landed gentry and life in the Balkans.

The Somnambulist - Essie Fox (available at National Book Store). This is Essie Fox doing her best imitation of a Victorian novel. Phoebe, 17, is the pretty daughter of Maud, a God-fearing temperance champion, who thinks treating life as a bitter pill is the only way to approach life. Aunt Cissy is a former singer and stage actress, and when Phoebe accompanies Cissy to Wilton’s Music Hall in London’s East End for Cissy’s celebrated “return” to the stage, wheels are set in motion. The dark, enigmatic Mr. Samuels is in the audience. A Jew, and the owner of a mercantile emporium (think of the early days of Harrods), he is Cissy’s one great love, but married to Lydia, daughter of a landed English family. Cissy dies and Phoebe is “hired” to be Lydia’s companion. Suspense, family secrets, plot twists and turns, racial prejudices  a novel that lovingly recreates an era and London’s East End, while embellishing it with a story that reads like the best of “telenovelas.” Yes, this may fall under the category of “guilty pleasure,” but one can’t fault Fox for the rich attention to detail, and the fast pace of her novel.

The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall - Paul Torday (available at National Book Store). Author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (adapted to film and to be released later in the year), Paul Torday sets his sights on the landed gentry of England and how spiralling maintenance costs and taxes have made stately homes and grand estates such a burden  if not outright dinosaurs heading to extinction. When we meet Ed Hartlepool, he’s living in the South of France for tax purposes, the last in the line of a family that for generations have not had to work. Rather, it’s travel, sports and spending money that they are adept at; but after centuries of having developed the iron and ore from their part of the country, the money is trickling to a standstill, and reality of foreclosure has to be faced. There’s Ed’s childhood friend, Annabel, daughter of a grumpy military man; and there’s Geoff, Annabel’s boyfriend, who’s a shark of a real estate developer. And there’s Lady Alice Birtley, who suddenly turns up at the Hall, claiming to be an old flame of Ed’s father. How the lives of all these intersect and the moral dilemma that arises, when Annabel “disposes” of her father, make for an engrossing novel about friendship, values and reinvention. A worthy read!

The Tiger’s Wife - Tea Obreht (available at National Book Store). Touted as one of NY Times’ exciting novelists under the age of 30, Tea Obreht vividly takes her background of having grown up in the Balkans and the rich family lore that she enjoys, and transmutes them into literature. At its core, The Tiger’s Wife has two narratives going for it, one is centered on Natalia, a young doctor doing relief work in the countryside when she is informed about her grandfather’s death under mysterious circumstances. The second narrative is devoted to her grandfather’s life as a child and the way his stories and anecdotes serve as signposts for the Balkan experience. The three anecdotes of special import have to do with The Tiger’s Wife, The Deathless Man and Darisa the Bear  and what these stories show is how myth-making, story-telling and our own memories impact on reality. While the stories of the grandfather leave a stronger impression on us, taking on the mantle of magical realism as transplanted to the Soviet satellite states, the contemporary narrative gives us an intimate glimpse into the lives of people surviving within the desolation of a country at war with itself.

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