Online shopping festival sets new records amid pandemic
People's Daily Online

File Photo: VCG

The fluctuating COVID-19 pandemic situation has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of Chinese netizens looking for hot sales in the country’s mid-year online shopping holiday. This holiday is popular among young Chinese citizens, who reward themselves for half a year of hard work with discounted goods, while the date, June 18th, was chosen because both 6 and 8 are lucky numbers in Chinese. The shopping holiday usually starts a few days before June 18 and ends several days after.

Though the holiday has become one of the largest offline and online shopping festivals in the world, it is the online version that tends to attract global attention. In 2020,, which launched the shopping festival to mark the anniversary of its establishment 17 years ago, recorded 269.2 billion yuan in orders during the 18-day promotion, up from 201.5 billion yuan during last year’s event. Its rival Alibaba, China’s leading online shopping platform, set a sales new record of 698.2 billion yuan (about 98.6 billion dollars).

According to Xinhua, from June 1 to 18, China’s freight volume rose 27.1 percent compared to the same period last month, while a total of 26.18 billion transactions worth 16.91 trillion yuan (about 2.38 trillion U.S. dollars) were carried out during the same period, up 52 percent and 42 percent respectively from last year.

With the online shopping festival now becoming an integral part of China’s economy and internet culture, the mid-year spending spree reflects the steady recovery in China's retail consumer goods sales. Online sales continued to be active, as having to stay indoors meant consumers turned to online services. Online sales increased by 4.5 percent year on year in the first five months, accelerating by 2.8 percentage points from the first four months.

Experts also noted that online shopping will inject vitality into China’s pandemic-stricken economy, with the nation introducing a string of measures to revive consumer confidence as part of broader efforts to boost the economy.

Shopping frenzy

During this year’s shopping festival, selling goods through online live-streaming has become a new trend that has boosted the public’s appetite for shopping. Thousands of hosts have been introducing their products to potential buyers online, with some sharing cooking recipes with their audiences, and others singing and dancing in a bid to attract people’s attention.

According to statistics, Alibaba’s 13 live-stream sales platforms have sold products worth over 100 million yuan, while’s live-stream debut created a profit of 1.4 billion yuan. Even offline shopping centers have opened their own live-stream sales channels, showing clients new products and information on discount deals via internet.

This is not the first time that online live-streaming has helped to boost economic vitality in China amid the pandemic. In April, Li Jiaqi, a well-known Chinese live-streaming celebrity and a news anchor from CCTV, launched an online sales promotion for products from Hubei province, which was previously under lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, selling 40.14 million yuan ($5.7 million) in local products in just two hours. Nearly all 15 promoted products sold out within seconds of their introductions, including famous hot dry noodles, tea and other local agricultural products.

In addition to online live-streams, advanced new technologies have also been used to boost online sales. During this year’s online shopping festival, enterprises such as IKEA offered clients 3D apps to match furniture with decorations without having to go to offline shops. Clients can enter keywords to select different pieces of furniture and colours, creating a virtual space. An IKEA shop in Baoshan District, Shanghai, hit a new daily sales record in just 1 hour and 20 minutes. 5G technology has also been used to set up unmanned supermarkets so that people don’t have to come into contact with each other.

“Innovative internet technologies have shown their advantages during the pandemic. The digital economy in China has been developing rapidly, and can become a new pivot for post-pandemic economic development,” said Wang Wei, research fellow and Director-General of the Institute for Market Economy, under the Development Research Centre of the State Council.

As for buyers, more people are paying greater attention to health products due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to statistics, within five minutes of the shopping festival kicking off, sales volumes of dietary supplements topped 10 million yuan. Within 10 minutes, sales of online medical consultation services grew six-fold.

“Compared to previous years, this year’s new online shopping trends will definitely provide new possibilities for China’s online economic development,” said Zhao Ping, director of the international trade research department of the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.