Pandemic dents foreign orders for Christmas goods in China

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/29 17:43:40

Yiwu vendors encounter hard times as overseas customers vanish

A Christmas goods seller in a market in Yiwu, East China's Zhejiang Province, is sorting products at her shop. Local Christmas products sellers are facing a hard year ahead as the global spread of COVID-19 pandemic cuts foreign orders for their goods. Photo: Chen Xia/GT

This Christmas could look very different with a subdued festive atmosphere as the coronavirus pandemic has stopped foreign customers from placing orders from China's Yiwu, the world's largest Christmas goods manufacturing base. 

Yiwu, in East China's Zhejiang Province, makes about 60 percent of the world's Christmas goods ranging from Christmas trees and lights to toys and clothing, Cai Qinliang, secretary general of the Yiwu Christmas Decorations Association, told the Global Times. 

In total, China produces about 80 percent of the world's Christmas products, with South China's Guangdong Province being another manufacturing hub for the goods, he said. 

"Foreign countries have no choice but to purchase large quantities of Christmas ornaments from China, as there's no other country that has complete Christmas product industry chains," said Cai, saying that foreigners will be short of goods for the holiday if they don't order from Chinese sellers.  

According to Cai, some other countries like India also make Christmas-related products, but they still have to import relevant raw materials from China.

Therefore, it's quite likely that there won't be much Christmas spirit later in 2020, as Yiwu sellers said that export orders plunged in March, the start of the Christmas ordering season, as the pandemic has led to difficulties placing orders. Orders usually peak in April, May and June, the sellers said. 

"I have not seen one customer entering our shop since we opened after the Spring Festival holiday," said an employee surnamed Zheng at the Li Yuan Christmas Gifts Co, which has a booth selling Christmas toys and socks in Yiwu's Futian Market. In the same period last year, the shop saw a daily average of 10 groups of customers. 

"We had about a dozen orders in March 2019. This month, we only have two small orders," she told the Global Times. 

On Thursday, almost all shops selling Christmas products like trees and bulbs in Futian market had no customers. The sellers were killing time by chatting, reading or watching online videos.

Zhu Zhijuan, manager of Christmas tree seller Zhejiang Yiwu Xintean Arts & Crafts Co, said her company's sales revenue is down about 50 percent year-on-year in March, while business inquiries are down 20 percent. 

"Many of my customers had already placed orders by this time in the past. This year, they are waiting to see how the situation develops," she said. About half of Zhu's customers are from Europe, which has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

For Zhu, except for the first few years when she started from scratch, now is the hardest time since she opened the shop in 2004. 

"It's much harder than during the 2008 financial crisis. I fear business is doomed for 2020," she said. She made a profit of roughly 5 million yuan ($702,500) in 2019.

But Cai remains hopeful. "It is still unclear how China's Christmas industry will fare this year. It depends on how the coronavirus develops," he said. 

Yu Qiaofang, owner of Zhengqiao Christmas Gifts Co, said she can't be sure of the impact on this year's business until the Canton Fair, which has been postponed because of the coronavirus.  

"I am prepared for a 10 percent sales decline in 2020," she told the Global Times.

Newspaper headline: Pandemic dents Christmas orders


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