COAST CITIES — There may be a U.S. trade deficit but you wouldn’t know it by talking to Bente Fajardo and Sunniva Savage, owners
of usa-scandinavia.com, an online personal shopping service for Europeans addicted to American products.
Fajardo, who lives in Oceanside, and Savage, a Carlsbad resident, have more than 2,000 customers who visit their website to place orders for everything from spinning toothbrushes to candy, car parts and designer clothing.
The idea for the business sprang from requests from family and friends whenever Fajardo and Savage returned to their native Norway for a visit. Through word-of-mouth, and Google, news of their shopping service spread to Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
After placing their orders, buyers pay for their goods via Paypal. A flat fee of $50 is charged for orders less than $250. Larger orders are assessed on a percentage of the sale.
Fajardo and Savage order the items online and have them delivered to their respective homes. Then they gift wrap the items, package the complete order and ship it via the U.S. Postal Service or DHL.
Much of the demand for their service comes from the fact that most American online retailers don’t honor Scandinavian credit cards. Shoppers also enjoy ordering from someone who speaks their native language.
“We have a lot of people who lived or visited here and they can’t find products they like in Europe or on websites either,” Savage explained. “There was one lady who was raised here and she wanted candy corn. When she received it she said it brought back childhood memories.”
Other American candies popular in Europe are Babe Ruth, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Skittles, Lifesavers, M&Ms, Hershey Kisses and candy canes. There is also a huge demand for Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Betty Crocker cake mixes, Oreo cookies and Starbucks coffee.
Shoes brands such as Croc, Ugg, Timberland and Merrell are often requested.
“I had a customer who’d request an order of 100 pairs of shoes from shoes.com at a time,” said Fajardo.
Some of the more popular clothing labels include Polo, Guess, Gap and Quiksilver.
“People want to show the brand name,” Fajardo said. “The bigger the logo, the better it is. One lady loves everything Ralph Lauren.”
Fajardo and Savage explained that a Ralph Lauren sweater priced at $59 in the U.S. would cost about $180 in Norway. A Quiksilver T-shirt priced at $14.99 here would be about $100 in Norway.
Other trendy brands are Patagonia, Nike, Adidas and, of course, Levi jeans.
“I have a customer who buys four to five pairs at one time in the same color,” said Savage. “The cost is the same as one pair in Norway.”
American cosmetics are also in demand, especially Bare Essentials and Mary Kay.
“A lady buys Brut deodorant, 10 at a time, because she wants her husband to smell good,” Fajardo said.
The most expensive item requested since they launched their business was a paint sprayer.
“The man saved $3,000 buying it here,” Fajardo said.
The strangest item ordered was an oil-based sealant used to protect gold lettering on tombstones.
“They don’t sell it in Norway because of European Union regulations that classify it as a hazardous material,” Fajardo explained.
Fajardo and Savage say that even though taxes are high, Norwegians have a lot of money to spend because their country is the third largest oil producer in the world.
“Scandinavia is very high-tech so whenever there is a new product in the U.S., they want to buy it,” Fajardo said. “Normally, the technology doesn’t arrive over there for another six to nine months, so they want to be the first one to have it.”
“We send a lot of electronics including cell phones such as Google and Nexus.”
The website has been written up extensively in the Norwegian press including teen magazine, Kamille; a blog on the largest online newspaper, VG; and KK, named “Magazine of the Year” in 2010.
“The editor-in-chief actually bought something from us,” Fajardo said. “I’ve never been in a business where you got so much positive feedback. We have 250 friends on Facebook. We have a goal to have 500 friends by April.”
For more information, visit usa-scandinavia.com.