Posting a profit
Updated: 2012-01-26 07:56
By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)
A customer selects goods at a shop which buys overseas goods for customers at Modern Plaza in Beijing. Provided to China Daily
Online global shopping services are increasingly popular as Chinese are able to buy goods they can't get at home from overseas. Zheng Jinran reports.
Surrounded by her female colleagues, a woman in her 20s takes out the brand-name nail polish and rouge from a parcel posted in London.
"The prices are about 30 percent lower than in local shops," says Kong Cong, 24, who works at a real estate company in Beijing. "Besides, the rouge I bought cannot be found in China."
Many young people who can afford luxury goods but have little opportunity to shop abroad, like Kong, turn to websites to buy what they want from other countries and regions.
Online stores such as those on global.taobao.com are responsible for promoting goods they can buy and receiving orders, while their assistants abroad buy and mail them back. Then the goods are delivered. The whole process can take from a few days to a few months, depending on how difficult it is to track down the goods and transport them.
"I have bought various things abroad in this way, from snacks to shoes and clothes. They are fashionable and cheaper than comparable items sold in China because of custom duties and other expenses," Kong says.
She adds that she spent more than 180,000 yuan ($28,528) shopping online in 2011. "I didn't think it was so much, but I just can't quit."
And Kong's not the only one.
Trade volumes on global.taobao.com increased by 18 percent in 2010, and a similar increase was expected in 2011, as online shopping has increased by 30 percent, says Yu Lingbing, a manager with the operation department of Taobao.com.
In 2010, the trade volume of the global service reached 3 billion yuan, says Zhao Jingpeng of the website's public relations department, adding 2011 figures will be available in March.
More than 5,000 verified shops on Taobao.com provide global services, which are checked to ensure their supplies come up to standard and are monitored for complaints.
Those with poor records will be cleared out and new applicants encouraged to join.
"We lost our official verification because we added domestic brands to our list of goods, " a saleswoman at the Taobao.com online store Xiaogang Meizhuang says.
"Every month about 10 to 20 percent of the online stores will be changed, thus maintaining good service for clients," Yu says.
Taobao.com representatives suggest their global service clients are mainly in their 20s and females comprise 70 percent of sales for its global service.
"They have an acute sense of fashion. What's more, they can get the latest information on foreign culture from the Internet and usually have a positive attitude toward it," Yu says. "Most important, they have the purchasing power for superior quality and luxury items."
Liu Xiaoqing, 25, from Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, says her 2-year-old nephew only drinks imported milk powder and wears foreign fashions.
"My sister-in-law wants to give the best to her son. And the foreign brands do make him stand out," Liu says.
Those who do the buying abroad are usually women, often housewives, who have the time and energy to provide consistent service. Students studying overseas and frequent travelers, such as air stewardesses, also figure.
Sales usually come from developed areas, such as Shanghai, Beijing and other second- and third-tier cities.
Trade volumes from the coastal areas, including Shanghai and Guangzhou accounted for about half of all China sales in 2011.
The question as to whether the products are genuine or not is, however, an issue.
Taobao.com stipulates buyers have the right to cancel the order if they are not satisfied, but Kong Cong says, "It's too time- and energy-consuming. I just choose another shop recommended by my friends."
Another problem is tariffs. Sometimes products are detained by customs and extra fees are charged.
Even so, buying abroad via online sites is a growing market.
"Spring Festival is a good time for this service. Chinese people will give presents to their friends and parents after they get a big bonus," Yu says. "The volume of purchases will certainly increase."