GlobalData has found that of those who have ordered items from abroad in the past year, 51.1% of consumers did not consider the environmental impact of their order, and the remaining 48.9% who did consider the environmental impact, were not deterred from making an order.

The data, which is derived from GlobalData’s October monthly survey of 2,000 nationally representative UK respondents also shows younger consumers are purchasing from abroad in the highest proportion with 52.1% of 16–24-year-olds having ordered from abroad in the past year. This is despite 71.1% of this demographic stating that they considered the environmental impact before ordering from abroad.

45.9% of those who stated they had ordered items from abroad in the past year have ordered to the UK from China. This reflects that one of the retailers most ordered from is based in China, with 28.8% of consumers purchasing orders from Temu. This is particularly impressive given Temu only expanded shipping to European countries in April 2023.

Meanwhile, 40.8% of consumers who ordered from abroad purchased from Shein, which is headquartered in Singapore.

As the cost-of-living crisis has continued to impact consumers, price has become even more important when making purchases, with 35.9% of consumers stating they have had to make noticeable cuts in their spending because of prices being higher. The extremely low prices offered by these retailers is therefore enough to persuade consumers to order from them, disregarding any concerns about ethical working conditions, the environment, delivery times and duties and taxes.

Source: GlobalData

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TikTok has undoubtedly contributed to the number of consumers ordering from China specifically, as it launched TikTok Shop earlier this year using Chinese suppliers to rival the likes of Shein and Temu, along with providing a platform for consumers to post sponsored hauls from retailers.

Both Shein and Temu have large marketing budgets, with Temu reported to have been investing nearly $500m every quarter into marketing and promotions, as it prioritises capturing more consumers over breaking even in the short term. TikTok Shop will likely further contribute to the race to the bottom on prices between these retailers, tempting consumers towards further impulse purchases. The rise of these retailers raises questions over sustainability: both of their business models and whether sustainability will be reprioritised by consumers as the cost-of-living crisis subsides.

62.7% of consumers stated they had at least some intention of ordering from abroad in future. This is not just due to the likes of Shein and Temu, but also other brands based abroad that consumers are purchasing from to achieve a certain aesthetic. As the global nature of social media makes it easy to promote international brands, consumers are frequently being influenced to purchase from international brands. For instance, Australian brands Posse and Dissh were both mentioned by consumers as having been purchased from with their products trending across Instagram in the summer. Thus, the rise of globalised retailers does not appear to be stopping any time soon.

Earlier this year (June 2023) a US report claimed both Temu and Shein were leveraging an online shipment loophole to evade forced labour checks.