AUSTRALIAN consumers will be forced to pay substantially more for their favourite fashion brands as a growing number of local importers reach agreements with international brands to stop selling their clothes to Australians on overseas websites or to lift their web prices.
While this will be welcome news to the country's struggling retailers, it means shoppers will no longer be able to save up to 50 per cent by buying labels from overseas.
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The distributors, who typically have exclusive wholesale rights to some international brands in Australia, say they have no choice while the government refuses to lower the $1000 GST-free threshold for imported goods.
Jacki Bresic, of the International Fashion Group, last month reached an agreement with popular US denim brands Paige Denim and AG Adriano Goldschmied to prevent major international online stores, including the Amazon-owned Shopbop and Revolve, selling their jeans to customers here.
Meanwhile, celebrity denim favourite True Religion agreed it would continue to sell to Australians - but at a higher price.
Ms Bresic said she was working with her other import brands on the issue.
''It is the only way we can compete on price with these overseas websites and try to prevent more and more retailers from closing their doors,'' she said. ''When you've got overseas websites selling the same pair of jeans for $100 or $150 cheaper because they don't have to pay the outdated taxes and duties that we do, then what hope do we have?''
Mattias Friberg, director of Some Agency, which imports Swedish brand Dr Denim, said preventing international websites from selling to Australian consumers was the best ''Band-Aid'' approach to stop the flow of sales going offshore.
He has negotiated with Dr Denim to prevent UK online fashion giant Asos selling the brand to Australian shoppers.
He said brands such as Dr Denim were agreeing to limit sales to Australia or to sell at higher prices because it helped to ''protect the integrity of the brand and the retailers who have supported the brand in this market for many years''.
The Age is aware of at least half a dozen fashion distributors, some who import up to a dozen brands, who have reached agreements or are negotiating to set prices or limit supply to Australia.
The increasing trend of retailers blocking access to US websites has also led to a rise in companies that forward items on to Australia for a fee.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission did not want to comment on individual cases, but a spokesman said ''impediments to emerging competition involving online traders is an area of priority''.
''Certain behaviour employed to underwrite regional pricing strategies can in some circumstances raise concerns under the competition provisions.''
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