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Online shopping a national pastime: survey

By William Hennelly | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-12-21 12:03

In America, baseball has long been considered the national pastime. In fact, baseball's popularity surged this year with a thrilling postseason after the sport had lost ground to pro football in the last two decades or so.

And with numerous controversies besetting the NFL, baseball has regained some of that national goodwill.

In China, sports are well received too, but a recent survey has concluded that online shopping is the "favorite leisure activity" of the Chinese people.

The fourth annual China's Connected Consumers: The rise of the Millennial survey asked a little more than 3,000 people on the Chinese mainland about their shopping habits. Sixty-seven percent of respondents were millennials - half born after 1985 and half after 1990.

The report, released on Dec 12 by global accounting firm KPMG's China branch and online shopping platform Mei.com, confirmed what probably was obvious.

It states that online shopping "has effectively become a national pastime" in China, heralded by festivals such as Singles Day (Nov 11) and Double 12 (Dec 12). On Singles Day, Chinese consumers went on to spend RMB 121 billion ($25.3 billion), obliterating last year's 24-hour sales record in just 13 hours.

It seems that the Chinese have caught up and surpassed Americans, who basically gave the world online shopping through the likes of Amazon and eBay and well, the internet.

"Retail is entertainment," said Joe Tsai, co-founder and vice-chairman of Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd, at an event for Singles Day, reported jingdaily.com. "Nowadays in China, the first greeting isn't whether you've eaten, but how many items do you have in your shopping cart."

And Alibaba, with its global Tmall and Taobao shopping platforms, and competitors Tencent and JD, keep those online shoppers occupied with exponential product offerings.

In fact, Tencent, which owns WeChat, and JD announced on Monday that they would invest a combined $863 million into discount online retailer Vipshop Holdings Ltd, which operates the popular vipshop.com, in an apparent challenge to Alibaba.

"Tencent hopes to assist Vipshop providing branded apparel and other products for China's rising middle class with traffic, promotion and payment schemes," said Martin Lau, Tencent's president.

And those buyers have higher-end aspirations, too.

Seventy percent of millennials plan to spend more on luxury goods and services in 2018, the report said. They are more likely than the previous generation to say luxury items reflect their personality and tastes rather than social status.

"The rise of a younger generation of consumers who are starting to experience luxury brands has changed the operating landscape of mainland China's retail market. It has gone from being wealthy-exclusive to increasingly mainstream as shown by the rise of the affordable luxury segment," the report states.

The way I look at it, so much of the stuff that people around the world buy online is made in China, so those making it also want to buy their share of it. (Of course, with that penchant for luxury brands, they also are buying a lot of stuff made elsewhere.)

Online shopping can become obsessive (I admit, I had a couple of packages delivered this week), and in China, a country whose people spend an extraordinary amount of time on mobile devices, those retail binges are a few screen taps away.

Contact the writer at williamhennelly@chinadailyusa.com

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