Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Where to Shop Online if You Live in Nunavut

There aren't many (any?) shopping malls in Nunavut. In most communities, our shopping is done at the local Northern or the Co-op, which are predominantly grocery stores that also feature an aisle of other random items like basic clothes, video games and guns.  These stores carry more supplies than I'd originally expected, but sometimes there are things we do need or want that they don't have, so we tend to spend a lot of time shopping online.  And after a while, you start to get a feel for online stores that 1. actually deliver to Nunavut and 2. offer cheap or free shipping to do so.  Finding stores that meet these criteria at all is harder than you think.  Some stores advertise "We ship for free anywhere in Canada!" but add in small print "but not to Nunavut, ha ha you suckers." I'm looking at you, Well.ca and Forever21.  Why you gotta be like that? Nunavut is so a part of Canada. Nunavut is a large part of Canada. Thanks for being that company, the one that offers free services everywhere but to the country's poorest region that needs it the most.

The reason why shipping costs are a big deal is because all supplies must be brought by airplane (there are no truck deliveries in Nunavut), and the airlines generally charge according to weight and volume. The costs add up pretty quickly because there are only a few flights that come in every day, so there is precious little real estate.

An additional obstacle are companies that insist you use "real" physical addresses rather than P.O. boxes.  Everyone uses P.O. boxes here. Nobody gets their stuff delivered to their house.  Even if I gave you my physical address, the courier companies would never find it because 1. my house has no house numbers 2. my street has no street sign.  It all goes to the post office.  So generally you have to try to get away with writing your address as something like "123 Fake Street, Apartment XXX", xxx being your post office box number.  The post office folks understand the code.  They're good people.  Companies need to understand how rural mail works.

Anyway, with that aside, here is a list that I've compiled of online shops that deliver to Nunavut, often for cheap or free.

(Note: most of the shipping rates I quote are for standard shipping. Express shipping probably costs more and is pointless because usually it doesn't actually come any faster. Also, shipping rates may change at any time so make sure you check for yourself).

Sometimes I wonder if it's only a matter of time before these companies go, "What? Who is this rungloriarun that is increasing our sales in Nunavut and forcing us to lose profits in shipping costs? Time to shut this baby down. FREE SHIPPING TO ANYWHERE IN CANADA (except Nunavut, ha ha you suckers)."

  • Amazon: Amazon is my favourite site for shopping, because they offer free shipping anywhere full stop for orders over $25. And you can get pretty much anything from Amazon, from books to cookie cutters to body suits. I order most of my music on vinyl from Amazon. My friends give me heck for not ordering directly from the record label, but honestly, it's hard to argue with FREE SHIPPING.

  • Costco: Costco used to offer free unlimited shipping to Nunavut, but too many people were ordering entire bedroom sets and treadmills to be shipped up, so no more unlimited free shipping. But they still do ship a lot of stuff for free to Nunavut, so it's worth looking at.

  • Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC): Offers free shipping to Nunavut on orders over $50.  It is easy to spend over $50 at MEC, and in fact, what exactly can you get under $50 at MEC? This is great, because MEC carries a lot of things that you'll find you'll need in Nunavut, especially out on the land.

  • David's Tea: Free shipping to Nunavut on orders over $50. That's a lot of tea, you might think, but you just order your year's supply at once and you have something tasty to keep you warm through the cold Arctic winters. Also, free samples of loose leaf tea with every order!

  • Sephora: Free shipping to Nunavut on orders over $75. For all your makeup needs.

  • asos: Fashion clothing company based in the UK but ships for free to a bunch of countries including Canada. I don't see a "but not Nunavut" exception in the shipping policy, probably because most places outside of Canada haven't heard of Nunavut (which is a good thing in this case!)

  • lululemon: Free shipping to Nunavut...also, they explicitly mentions that they do ship to P.O. boxes and rural addresses in Canada. Win!

  • Running Room: Free shipping to Nunavut on orders over $150.. And, when I last ordered from them, my order came with a nice little handwritten note, which is pretty sweet.

  • Best Buy: Same day free shipping on orders over $20 (which, you know, is like everything)

  • Future Shop: Pretty much the same deal as Best Buy.

  • Dell: Free ground shipping on everything with no minimum purchase. I don't see a Nunavut exception so I assume it includes Nunavut, even if you can't get there by ground.

  • The Shopping Channel: at the time of this writing, this company offers "Free Shipping On Almost Everything When You Spend over $100" limited to all items with a shipping weight of 25lbs or less. However, the site notes that courier shipping requires a physical street number and address (no P.O. boxes), and does contain the line "Should your address fall outside normal delivery areas, you will be contacted and informed of any additional shipping charges", so keep your eyes open.

  • Old Navy, The Gap & Banana Republic: Free shipping to Nunavut on all orders over $50.


  • Smart Set: $7.50 flat rate shipping. Also, free returns.

  •  Meeplemart: For all your boardgaming needs! My board gaming friends all swear by Meeplemart as the cheapest place in Canada to order board games. It's a company based in Toronto, and they ship reasonably quickly and cheaply. Our last order cost us only about $10 in shipping, which is pretty good.

  • Bluenotes:  They have a wide variety of clothes to choose from, and their shipping costs are a steal - often between $5-8, even if you are ordering a whole new wardrobe change because you realize that summer dresses are no good in the Arctic. 

  • La Senza: from my research, I have found that between La Senza, La Vie En Rose, and Victoria's Secret, it's La Senza that offers the cheapest shipping prices for their clothes - a flat $9 rate, even to Nunavut.

  • Ricki's: As in the clothing store. Offers shipping to Nunavut for $9.95.

  • Mark's Work Warehouse: Flat shipping rate of $6.50. These guys carry felt-lined jeans, which are so key for Nunavut winters!

 I haven't ordered from some of these shop because the shipping prices are a little daunting, but my friends swear by these places, and at least they deliver to Nunavut.
  • Well.ca: Like Costco, Well.ca used to ship for free anywhere in Canada, but they've now jumped on the "but not Nunavut, ha ha you suckers" trend. Which is too bad, because you can pretty much order anything from this site: gardening supplies, groceries, socks. But their shipping rates are based on the price of your order: $20 shipping for orders under $99.99, $40 shipping for orders between $100 and $199.99, $100 shipping for orders between $200 and $499.99, etc.  And I'm not going to drop $100 for shipping on a $200 order. Oh well.
  • Bed Bath and Beyond: Actually, these guys offer a pretty reasonable shipping rate that is based on a sliding scale according to the cost of your order ($9.50 shipping for order under $25, $10.90 shipping for orders under $50, $12.95 for orders under $75, and $14.95 for orders under $100, etc.). However, I have not ordered from here yet because I refuse to let myself get to the point where I admit that I am excited by sheets and things.

  • Asian Food Grocer: This site is awesome, especially since Asian cuisine ingredients are the things that I find I miss the most while I'm up here. You can order pocky. You can order wasabi. You can order pretty much anything you'd find at a T&T. Unfortunately, they ship from the States, so an order of $200 would cost us an extra $100 in shipping. Eep. For now, I just have my parents send us care packages full of kochukaru and thai curry powder, because they are awesome.