China’s annual shopping extravaganza
Major e-commerce platforms in China say they are ready for the massive influx of orders ahead of the Chinese New Year
Wu Shanshan has started shopping for Chinese New Year products earlier than usual this year as she is hoping to diversify her purchases with the inclusion of some imported goods. For the 33-year-old housewife in Shanghai, this important holiday marks not just a time when her family members get together to partake in the festivities, but also a chance to embark on a major shopping spree.
She said that she would usually head to the supermarket a week before the arrival of the festival to shop for food and Chinese New Year paraphernalia, but the convenience that e-commerce platforms afford has led her to order imported goods such as beef and seafood for this year’s celebrations.
Similarly, Xu Yan, a young mother and white collar worker in Shanghai, will be ordering foodstuff from overseas sources to usher in the Year of the Monkey, which kicks off on February 8.
“As a matter of fact, ever since the birth of our son three years ago, we have been constantly ordering imported food and baby items online due to quality concerns. Now, half of the food we buy are imported goods,” said Xu.
Major cross-border e-commerce players in China are now tapping onto this trend and have greatly widened the selection of imported goods in an attempt to make Chinese New Year the second largest shopping fiesta after Singles’ Day, which takes place on Nov 11 every year.
“Singles’ Day is a made-up festival while Black Friday is an imported one. Only the Spring Festival is our own, and it should become the key for online shopping in the future,” said Li Chengdong, an independent e-commerce strategy analyst.
Major multinational brands and retailers on Tmall Global, which was officially launched in February 2014 by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, started preparation for the Chinese New Year as early as November last year, and their Ali Chinese New Year Shopping Festival offers imported goods from 25 nations and regions.
“More than two years ago, Tmall discovered that the sales for imported food and health products peaked in the run-up to the Chinese New Year,” said Ye Zhenshen, head of marketing department from Tmall Global.
“In contrast to the Singles’ Day sales when most products are sold out almost immediately, the Chinese New Year sales last a longer period and focus more on food and health products. The demand will steadily grow as the New Year approaches. Sales would normally peak two weeks before the Spring Festival,” added Ye.
Another e- commerce giant JD.com kicked off their Spring Festival sales on January 11, offering consumers a host of products including food, beverages, baby
Li Chengdong, quickly available for shipping. This helps to shorten the time required from acknowledging an order to the customer receiving it.
Niu also said that Amazon is well prepared to deal with the increased demands during the festive period.
“We are aware of this special need for people’s New Year’s shopping, so Amazon China will continue to be available in more than 20 cities across China even during the Spring Festival, with the latest delivery time extended to 11 pm,” Niu said.
After decades of development, Amazon has established a network of 123 fulfillment centers across the world, providing customers access to 185 nations and regions. Of these 123 centers, 13 of them are located in China. With such extensive networks, Niu said that Amazon is able to deliver ordered products to 1,400 Chinese cities within one to two days.
Over at JD.com, Xiong said that tens of thousands of their staff in the logistics department and service centers will be on call to ensure speedy delivery in nearly 90 cities nationwide, more than double the number of locations available last year.
Chinese overseas online shopping rose sharply from 10 billion yuan in 2010 to more than 80 billion yuan in 2013. In 2014, it reached 129 billion yuan, up 60 percent year-on-year, according to data by Analysys.cn.
China’s Ministry of Commerce forecasts that cross-border e-commerce will hit 6.5 trillion yuan in 2016 and it will grow at an annual growth rate of above 30 percent in the next few years.
Shanghai and Beijing are the leaders in terms of imported goods purchases for the Chinese New Year period, according to Tmall Global. Up to 70 percent of Shanghai buyers are females aged between 23 and 35 years old, and the most popular purchases include luxury bags and suitcases, Japanese cosmeceuticals, small home appliances and health products from Europe and Australia.
A total of 439 million yuan worth of goods were imported into Shanghai through cross-border e-commerce platforms throughout 2015, soaring nearly seven-fold year-on-year, according to thepaper.cn. Furthermore, the size of imported goods businesses in 2016 is expected to expand between five and ten times that of last year’s, said an official from the city’s crossborder e-commerce division.
E-commerce has become such an integral part of life for Chinese consumers. Some 439 million yuan of goods were imported through cross-border e-commerce platforms in Shanghai last year.
Employees of a courier company sorting out delivery orders ahead of the Chinese New Year.