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Shanghai shopping, promotional events off to fast start

By He Wei in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-06 07:56
The May 5 Shopping Festival is officially launched in Shanghai on May 4. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Making a car purchase is usually a deliberative and prudent process, but five Cadillac XTs were snapped up in a matter of seconds on Chinese e-commerce site Pinduoduo on Monday, signaling a bargain too good to refuse.

Shanghai held a ceremony on Monday to launch a massive campaign to boost consumer spending and resuscitate an economy bruised by the novel coronavirus. As part of the campaign, merchants are opening up their wallets, offering steep discounts and dishing out shopping coupons to spur spending.

The campaign, called the May 5 Shopping Festival, falls under the auspices of the municipal government. It started on Friday and will last through June, taking in key festivals such as May Day, Children's Day and the Dragon Boat Festival.

"During this critical period of rebooting the economy, we decided to host this festival covering all online and offline businesses ... to unlock consumption potential and boost consumption confidence," acting Mayor Gong Zheng said during Monday's official launch, which was called the Global Promotion Convention of Shanghai as an International Shopping Magnet.

Besides rolling out details of the shopping festival, the event raised the curtain for a list of promotional activities such as new product global launches in Shanghai.

According to the Shanghai Commission of Commerce, the total consumer sales in Shanghai reached 15.68 billion yuan ($2.22 billion) 24 hours after the shopping festival started at 8 pm on Monday.

The shopping spree will see more than 130 campaigns and over 700 special activities, featuring product debuts, revival of time-honored Chinese brands and deepened integration of online and offline shopping.

'Economic rebound'

"We are pleased to see that consumption is already recovering in Shanghai and in China," said Jean-Paul Agon, chairman and CEO of L'Oreal Group. "I am convinced that this strategic initiative will actively contribute to its bounce back and to the economic rebound."

He said the company will take the opportunity to introduce a bevy of new brands, products, technologies and experiences to local customers, given that "people cherish beauty more than ever in this unique moment".

Apart from the five Cadillacs, 25 other cars were very quickly sold on Monday by automaker SAIC-GM, each with a discount of some 100,000 to 150,000 yuan.

The festival is not just for buyers of big-ticket items. Liang Changlin, CEO of Dingdong Fresh, said discounts offered by his fresh produce site had driven 120 million yuan in sales in the first four days of the May Day holiday, including sales in Shanghai that reached 30 million yuan a day. Customers can either visit the company's store or purchase products online to be delivered.

Liang said they offer "perks" like free bonus products with purchases, buy one get one free, rapid deliveries and agricultural products from around China.

Retailer Suning.com has promised to hand out 2 billion yuan worth of vouchers to consumers in Shanghai, and offer perks like installment payments and online-to-offline shopping, according to company Vice-Chairman Sun Weimin.

It will also invite vendors and shopping assistants to recommend merchandise via livestreaming, usually with a discount, which allows customers to make immediate purchases with their mobile gadgets.

Marketing 'new norm'

Livestreaming has become the 'new norm' for marketing products and services, given that Chinese consumers are increasingly used to filling everyday shopping needs on the go. Online-to-offline shopping site Meituan Dianping is leveraging online influencers to introduce discounts worth 1.2 billion yuan offered by businesses including restaurants, entertainment facilities, hotels and tourist sites in Shanghai.

"Thanks to livestreaming, we already see a pickup in tourist sites and art shows. Livestreaming will greatly enhance sales diversity and help us better attract young customers," company Vice-President Mao Fang said.

Alibaba Group, which owns the country's top e-commerce sites, said the number of orders placed by Shanghai-based customers in the first three days of the May Day holiday rose by 2.4 times year-on-year, while the number of purchases from Shanghai-based vendors surged 2.7 times.

The city has long wanted to build itself into a global shopping hub. Officials say the city has the second biggest presence of cross-border retailers in the country, a presence by 90 percent of international high-end brands and the highest number of debut stores and flagship stores in China.

In the first quarter, however, retail sales plunged 20.4 percent year-on-year, for a total of 306.03 billion yuan, owing to the virus.

However, according to the Ministry of Commerce, average daily sales of key retail businesses monitored from Friday to Monday jumped by 30.1 percent from the week before the five-day holiday.

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