Taobao lures Russian shoppers

Updated: 2014-01-06 07:52

By Xinhua (China Daily)

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Avid shopper Marina Kobylenko Viktorovna is delighted with the goods she bought online from China.

The resident of Kaluga, Russia, bought decorations and gifts for her family for the New Year's holiday.

Viktorovna, 34, likes to shop on, China's leading online shopping platform, and has been doing so for five years. She buys clothes, bags, decorative items, toys and electronic goods nearly every month.

"Chinese commodities are inexpensive and good quality. All I have to do is sit in front of a computer, find what I want and click," she said.

The light-goods industry in Russia is not well-developed, while China has many products with price advantages, said Xiao Haikun, a public relations officer with Alibaba, Taobao's parent company.

Russians, especially young people, have increasingly been buying goods from China. Taobao data showed about $2 million worth of goods were sent to Russia in February. The figure doubled in May.

Clothes, shoes, bags, cellphones, tablets and household items are popular with Russian shoppers, Xiao said.

Strategies on how to shop at Chinese companies online are available on Russian Web forums.

Shops in Guangzhou and Shanghai are better for clothes and shoes, the websites counsel, and retailers in Shenzhen have a wide variety of electronic appliances.

The Google Translate service helps Russians better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the products they are buying.

Russian agents assist shoppers in buying goods online and profit from service fees or buying low and selling high. Customers do not have to worry about cross-border payment and logistics.

On Russia's largest social networking website, VK, if you input the word "taobao", 4,600 groups appear. Each has 300 to 300,000 members.

Aleksey Kolmuayev, 36, who lives in Yekaterinburg, is an agent.

"It usually takes about a month for goods to get to Russian from China by mail, but I have been working with a logistics company and we've cut it down to about two weeks. If shoppers don't get their goods, I give them a refund," he said.

Ivan Davidovich Karakhan runs a shop in the St. Petersburg suburb of Kolpino. Online shopping has saved him a lot of money, because he rarely needs to fly to Beijing to buy goods.

Increasingly, businesspeople are able to forgo flights between China and Russia with the click of the mouse.

A 25,000-square-meter logistics base is being built in Suifenhe, Heilongjiang province, to improve the logistics between the two countries.

However, the surge in e-commerce has cut into the number of Russian tourists coming to shop in China, said Shi Xiaoxing, manager of east Russian regions with China International Travel Service Ltd.

January-to-November trade between China and Russia stood at $81 billion, up 0.5 percent year-on-year. But the growth rate was about 10 percentage points lower year-on-year, according to China's General Administration of Customs.

(China Daily 01/06/2014 page7)