Pandemic boosts foreign online orders for made-in-China wigs, bikes
Published: Jun 09, 2020 10:23 PM

A customer in the first AliExpress showroom in Moscow, Russia, in September 2016 Photo: IC

E-commerce is helping Chinese businesses weather the storm amid COVID-19, as sales of made-in-China products ranging from wigs and bikes to 3D printers have shot up in pandemic-hit countries, data from AliExpress, Alibaba's online global retail platform, showed. 

Sales on AliExpress to some of the hardest-hit countries like the US, Spain, Italy and France showed a surprising average growth of 40 to 50 percent year-on-year during recent months, said Wang Mingqiang, the general manager of AliExpress.

"Mostly it's because the brick-and-mortar stores were shut in many countries during the lockdown, and people are more inclined to shop online," Wang said. 

Some Chinese products saw explosive sales growth during the pandemic. For example, sales of made-in-China wigs doubled year-on-year in April, while the number of wig buyers also surged by around 40 percent in May compared with March on the platform, Wang said. 

Shen Dalei, general manager of wig seller Henan Allrun Enterprise Co, said that his company's sales on AliExpress increased by around 40 percent year-on-year in the first four months this year, although offline foreign orders via wholesalers have been dented by the pandemic. Henan Allrun Sells wigs to the US, Europe and Africa. 

"We didn't expect such strong online growth. I suppose it is because the pandemic has forced many overseas customers to purchase wigs online when brick-and-mortar wig stores are closed amid the pandemic," Shen told the Global Times, adding that wearing wigs is a rigid habit for many overseas people. 

Made-in-China bikes also saw explosive online sales during the pandemic. In the past several weeks, sales of bikes in Italy surged more than 20 times on AliExpress while sales of bikes increased more than 10 times in Spain. 

Wang Yang, AliExpress' sports goods operation expert, said that although the pandemic has started to ease in some overseas countries, public transportation is still banned by many foreign governments and bike riding has been encouraged instead, which has stimulated a surge in demand for bikes. 

Wang said that the boost provided by the pandemic for online cross-border sales will not be just a short-term trend. 

"With many offline-addicted customers being forced to shop online during the pandemic, many of them are expected to shift their buying habits after they experience the convenience of online shopping," he said. 

Sales of more novel products like 3D printers are also on the rise. According to Li Kai, AliExpress' operation expert, sales of 3D printers to France jumped more than 200 percent in April, and many buyers are using the printers to produce medical products such as masks to combat COVID-19.  

In general, China's foreign trade was down 7.7 percent in US dollar denominated-terms to $885 billion in the first five months this year, customs data showed.