New trends drive some retail areas amid COVID
China Daily

People enjoy their leisure time at a camping site in Chongqing on June 4. (Photo: China Daily)

Sales related to gardening, high-end camping, cooking and wellness on rise

Despite pressure on consumer spending caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, some market sectors have been given a boost by the growth of new trends.

Such trends include balcony gardening, high-end camping and greater sales of smart home appliances.

Camping in suburban areas has emerged as a bright spot as a result of restrictions on long trips that have come with pandemic prevention and control measures. Young travelers are eager to take part in camping outings that include barbecues, bonfire parties, fireworks and photography.

During the Dragon Boat Festival in early June, rentals of camping equipment more than doubled year-on-year. Use of recreational vehicles (RV) has also become a new trend, according to Qunar, a Beijing-based online travel agency.

Reservations for RV camping grew 60 percent year-on-year over the holiday, the agency said. The most enthusiastic RV campers were from Guangzhou, Guangdong province; Hangzhou, Zhejiang province; and Chongqing, Qunar said.

Young consumers accustomed to going out to eat before the pandemic have shown more interest in cooking. From January to April, sales of air fryers online surged 206.7 percent over the same period last year. The growth in sales was much higher than that of traditional products such as rice cookers, according to All View Cloud, a Beijing-based consultancy specializing in home appliances.

"As a result of the pandemic, some new buying patterns have emerged, and some traditional consumption patterns and habits are gradually changing," said Li Hongchang, a professor at the School of Economics and Management of Beijing Jiaotong University.

Downloads of fitness apps have also skyrocketed in China. People are increasingly keen to keep in shape with online videos or livestreaming sessions even as they stay home more, experts said.

The increasing popularity of online fitness is considered a key element in driving the sales of fitness-related equipment. Major sportswear makers such as Under Armour, Puma and Descente have launched online fitness activities to draw in more customers.

During the May Day holiday, sales of yoga mats, treadmills and jump ropes surged about 200 percent year-on-year. Sales of sportswear such as T-shirts, sneakers and workout pants jumped about 140 percent, according to Suning, a major online shopping platform.

Last year, the number of fitness videos available on short-video platform Douyin jumped 134 percent over the previous year, and the number of those who follow fitness trainers surged 208 percent, according to a Douyin report.

Meanwhile, balcony gardening has attracted more attention from urbanites and has become a way to help alleviate the pressure that has come with the pandemic.

"Balcony gardening has continued to develop. Besides providing organic fruits and vegetables, it can help parents educate their children about nature, and participants can also post pictures of their planting methods online and interact with each other," said Lu Zhipeng, head of the flower department at Alibaba's Tmall.

China has thousands of retailers all around the country selling vegetable plants in pots. Their products are growing in popularity, and the market is expected to expand over the next few years, market insiders said.

By 2024, annual sales of potted plants are forecast to amount to 399 million in number, with revenue hitting 7.89 billion yuan ($1.17 billion), according to a report by consultancy Frost and Sullivan. The compound annual growth rate for sales is expected to reach 13 percent and for revenue, 18.5 percent.

"Some new areas of consumer sales, especially those related to public social benefits, have been supported by favorable policies. The government also has provided subsidies for sales of smart home appliances and new energy vehicles in rural areas," Li said.

"Still, some industries are experiencing difficulties owing to the pandemic. Local governments should implement more detailed measures to help stabilize employment and help consumers increase disposable incomes, thus boosting consumption," he said.