Consumer cheer extends beyond one celebration

THE con­sumer cheer un­leashed by the Sin­gles Day (or Dou­ble Eleven) on­line shop­ping fes­ti­val on Nov 11 will likely ex­tend to New Year’s Day in China, coast­ing on the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of non-re­li­gious Christ­mas­-time cel­e­bra­tions, in­dus­try in­sid­ers said.

In­creas­ingly, even Chi­nese con­sumers, not just the global mar­kets, are buy­ing Christ­mas items pro­duced in Yiwu in East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

Of­ten re­ferred to as Santa’s Work­shop, Yiwu has seen a spike in sales of smaller va­ri­eties of Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tion items this year as Chi­nese shop­pers pre­fer them to big-ticket items that are pop­u­lar else­where.

On Yi­wu­gou, an on­line re­tail plat­form of Yiwu man­u­fac­tur­ers, the top five do­mes­tic sales items this year are fake berry plants, snow­man ta­ble dec­o­ra­tions, gift cards, snow­men made of lights, and bal­loons.

On Taobao, the on­line mar­ket­place of Alibaba, the top three Christ­mas-­themed items are socks, LED lights, and win­dow stick­ers.

“Smaller Christ­mas gifts like head­bands and socks are pre­ferred by do­mes­tic buy­ers, com­pared to over­seas buy­ers who pre­fer large plush Santa toys and Christ­mas trees,” said Zhu Guo­hua, a Christ­mas gift store owner in Yiwu who has been in this busi­ness for about 15 years.

Zhu said over­seas buy­ers vis­it­ing his store as well as other stores in Yiwu have in­creased by 5% this year. He at­trib­uted the rise to buy­ers’ ea­ger­ness to com­plete pur­chases be­fore prices rise fur­ther due to higher US im­port tar­iffs on Chi­nese goods.

Zhao Ping, di­rec­tor of re­search at the Academy of China Coun­cil for the Pro­mo­tion of In­ter­na­tional Trade, said that un­like in over­seas mar­kets where Christ­mas is a re­li­gious fes­ti­val and a time for fam­ily re­unions, con­sumers in China tend to use the year’s last week to in­ject some cheer into the dim win­ter by buy­ing low-value dec­o­ra­tion items.

Hence, Christ­mas trees and large plush Santa prod­ucts, which are costlier and re­quire more time to in­stall, are not as pop­u­lar in the do­mes­tic mar­ket as they are else­where.

“Christ­mas­-time cel­e­bra­tions are more com­monly seen among younger peo­ple who pre­fer to hang out with friends and ex­change gifts,” said Zhao.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, that en­tails out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, and, from late Oc­to­ber, the sense that Christ­mas is nigh drives con­sumers to restau­rants and malls.

Zhao said: “In re­cent years, Christ­mas has been a great sales sea­son for Chi­nese con­sumers, es­pe­cially those who pre­fer over­seas brands. How­ever, Christ­mas sales are less pop­u­lar than Singles Day sales and the New Year sales.

“More­over, Chi­nese con­sumers are get­ting more ra­tional in their pur­chases. They know there will al­ways be a next sales sea­son. They are also less price-sen­si­tive as their dis­pos­able in­comes have risen in re­cent times.”

So, busi­nesses such as cos­met­ics gi­ant Yves Saint Lau­rent (YSL) are en­hanc­ing their mar­ket­ing, brand­ing and pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties around Christ­mas, fo­cus­ing on things like lim­ited-edi­tion col­lec­tions, said a re­port from con­sult­ing firm Frost & Sul­li­van.

YSL’s Sparkle Clash lip­stick col­lec­tion was an in­stant sell­out dur­ing the 2016 Christ­mas sea­son, and re­mained on top of the rec­om­men­da­tions of so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers.

The so­cial me­dia boom in China in re­cent years has sparked a rise in dig­i­tal chan­nel ad­ver­tis­ing by brands around Christ­mas, mar­ket in­sid­ers said.

Zhang Yang, 26, a Bei­jing-based film pro­ducer, said she buys makeup and home ap­pli­ances af­ter watch­ing short videos on an app called Douyin, which is known as TikTok in over­seas mar­kets.

Zhang said: “I fol­low sev­eral so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers on Douyin. They spe­cial­ise in makeup tu­to­ri­als, cook­ing tu­to­ri­als, and pet prod­ucts. I tend to buy some of their rec­om­men­da­tions and those re­ceiv­ing on­line re­views.

“I can see Christ­mas prod­ucts are hav­ing in­creas­ing vis­i­bil­ity on Douyin.” — China Daily/Asia News Network

Christmas , retail