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Young shoppers favoring imports, foreign brands

By Fan Feifei| China Daily| Updated:  June 12, 2024 L M S

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The booth of Amazon Global Selling is seen during a cross-border e-commerce expo in Fuzhou, Fujian province, in March. WANG DONGMING/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

Chinese consumers have exhibited strong purchasing power for imported and foreign-branded products, which has become a key driver for upgraded consumption fueled by preferential policies such as lower tariffs and an expanded list of imported goods, alongside a gradual improvement in cross-border logistics, experts said.

Data from e-commerce giant JD showed that transaction volume of more than 180 brands on JD Worldwide, its cross-border platform, surged more than 100 percent year-on-year in the first four hours of its June 18 shopping carnival, which kicked off at 8 pm on May 31.

Sales of imported alcohol like Penfolds and Remy Martin increased fourfold year-on-year during the period, while turnover of foreign luxury brands like Loewe and Tiffany skyrocketed over 250 percent and 100 percent, respectively, JD said.

Generation Z consumers — those born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s — emerged as a major driving force in the consumption of imported beauty and skincare products, it added.

According to Tmall Global, the cross-border e-commerce site of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, turnover of 1,497 foreign brands, including 342 newcomers, doubled in the first four hours of its mid-year shopping extravaganza, which started at 8 pm on May 20.

It said foreign-branded wines, digital cameras, cycling equipment, outdoor sporting goods and healthcare items witnessed robust growth during the promotional campaign.

Zhang Zhouping, a senior analyst on business-to-business and cross-border activities at the Internet Economy Institute, a domestic consultancy, said Chinese shoppers have demonstrated rising demand for diversified, personalized and niche overseas products that represent new lifestyles, and are paying more attention to the value of the products they buy.

Cross-border e-commerce has played a significant role in enriching product supply and bolstering the recovery of consumption, Zhang said, and called for greater efforts to further optimize the list of imported retail goods for cross-border online purchases.

Market consultancy iiMedia Research said China's further opening-up, gradual improvement in logistics and deliveries and rising demand for imported goods will provide a big boost to consumption upgrade.

"The penetration rate of cross-border e-commerce in smaller cities and townships has been increasing in the past few years," said Chen Tao, an analyst with internet consultancy Analysys in Beijing, adding that tapping into the consumption potential and upgrading channels and services in lower-tier cities and rural areas are key measures needed to fuel the recovery of consumption in China.

Cross-border online shopping via livestreaming videos — a quick way for domestic consumers to find detailed information on overseas products — has become popular among the post-1980s and post-1990s generations of shoppers, he said.

Li Yanchuan, head of Amazon China Global Store and Prime, said young Chinese consumers, especially Gen Z, think and judge independently while choosing brands, and prefer to pursue niche lifestyles and personalized products.

Li said sales of fishing, skiing, camping and other outdoor sporting equipment have witnessed rapid growth, while virtual reality equipment, hand-drip coffee products, tableware and kitchen utensils with unique designs have been favored by Chinese shoppers in recent years.

Orders of online cross-border shopping are still mainly being placed in the biggest cities, but residents in second and third-tier cities have shown rapidly growing purchasing power. Amazon will further enrich cross-border shopping scenarios based on consumers who share similar interests and hobbies, Li added.

Amazon China Global Store announced in November the launch of its first in-land bonded warehouse at the cross-border e-commerce comprehensive pilot area in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, to provide a more convenient delivery experience for Chinese consumers.

Li said the new bonded warehouse will be connected to Amazon's global fulfillment centers and offer millions of selections at faster delivery speeds. It is expected to save up to 10 days compared to direct international shipments, with the shortest delivery time being two days.

"With the expansion of domestic demand and advances in emerging retail technologies, China has introduced preferential policies, such as lowering import taxes and expanding the range of goods allowed to be imported," said Zhang Tianbing, head of the Deloitte Asia-Pacific consumer products and retail industry.

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