Consumers shun Black Friday as cargo-related virus cases rise

By GT staff reporters Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/24 19:38:41

Shoppers buy TV sets at a supermarket during a Black Friday sale in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday. Photo: AFP

As retailers and e-commerce platforms are busy preparing for the Black Friday sale, Chinese consumers, who had an increasing role in the annual US shopping event last year, are holding back since freight-related COVID-19 cases have seen signs of rising.

"The discounts are huge, which is really attractive, but I'm truly afraid of the risks of contamination, especially as the overseas pandemic, especially in the US, has seen no signs of easing," Zhu Hong, a Shanghai-based white-collar worker, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Zhu's concerns are shared by many Chinese consumers. On China's Twitter-like social media Sina Weibo, a topic called "Reduce overseas purchases" ranks on the trending list. The topic calls on netizens to reduce or stop overseas purchases during the winter, since low temperatures make the virus spread faster. 

Many netizens agreed with the post, saying they will wait for next year's discounts to avoid potential infection risks.

Parcels from overseas countries do have the risk of contamination with the COVID-19 virus, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a previous interview, urging consumers to clean outer packages with disinfecting wipes.

The rising concerns also come after more locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Monday, including employees of UPS and FedEx, all of whom are connected to previous infections among freight workers in Shanghai.

Sun Xiaodong, deputy director of the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press conference on Monday that the confirmed local cases reported on November 9 and 10 were both exposed to one contaminated air cargo container.

Last year, Chinese consumers showed great interest in this US shopping festival. Data provided by Alibaba showed that on the first day of the Black Friday holiday shopping last year on its Tmall platform, sales were more than 66 percent higher than the previous year.

The event involves more than 2,500 brands from more than 70 markets, including Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea, according to a statement Alibaba sent to the Global Times.

E-commerce platforms prepared for this year's promotion over the past few weeks. Suning told the Global Times that it has joined with hundreds of brands globally during this shopping season, noting that it has more than 1,000 professional overseas buying teams, to explore the best products in more than 102 countries and regions for Chinese consumers. 

Suning said it also launched a sourcing system, so customers can see where a product has come from after scanning the QR code on the product.

DHgate, one of the leading cross-border e-commerce marketplaces in China, said it is offering the deepest discounts of up to 80 percent, and more than $1.6 million in coupons during the Black Friday sale.

However, the company said in November that the aggravation of the pandemic in the US had led to continued labor shortages in airports, terminals and other sites. The current average complete delivery rate in the US is 72 to 80 percent.

Several purchasing agents told the Global Times that purchasing and shipping had became more difficult amid the pandemic, which led to reduced orders.

Zhu Feng, a purchasing agent in Japan, told the Global Times that the pandemic has heavily influenced the cross-border shipment of goods, and his overseas orders had dropped as a result. 

"At the beginning of 2020, a parcel sent from Japan to China would take around one month, including customs clearance, which was already too long," said Zhu. "Things are getting better but it still takes much more time than before."

The population of cross-border e-commerce users in China reached almost 155 million in 2019, official data showed. 

Newspaper headline: Consumers shun Black Friday due to virus concern


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