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The Modern Spice Routes

PayPal have just released a report on cross-border shopping – the increasingly common practice of people using the internet to shop directly from suppliers and merchants all over the world (you have to register to get the full report but there's a PDF summary of it here). Drawing on data from Nielsen who analysed the shopping activity of 6000 people from six major markets (US, UK, Brazil, Germany, Australia and China), they forecast that just shy of 94m people are spending $105m on goods from overseas websites (16% of overall online shopping spend this year) with the US and UK the current biggest shopping destinations and clothing and accessories as the largest category. Growth in cross-border online shopping is pegged at almost 200% over the next five years.

The effortless globalisation and blurring of borders that the internet has brought is nothing new of-course but aside from the not insignificant economic opportunity (and challenge) that this shrinking-world behaviour creates, there is the somewhat more intangible cultural impact. The report is titled 'The Modern Spice Routes' and it's an analogy I really like. After all, trade and cultural exchange have always been heavily intertwined.

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