Santa Claus toy and other ornaments on Beijing street to celebrate the Christmas Day. [Asianewsphoto]
At the moment she unwrapped the parcel, Yang Ting who works for a foreign company in Beijing marveled at the set of delicate Christmas pompons, which was the third gift she had bought online within a month to decorate her house.
"With these pompons, a one-meter-plus high Christmas tree and some colored lights I bought on the net the other day, I can feel the excitement of Christmas even if I stay indoors," Yang said.
Like Yang Ting, more Chinese consumers have turned to the internet for Christmas gifts and decorations this year.
Statistics from e-commerce companies show that on-line sales growth for the holiday season is much stronger than the year before, even though prices of Christmas gifts are generally higher.
Lu Weixing, PR manager of Taobao, Asia's biggest e-commerce website, said: "Transaction value amounted to 4.8 billion yuan ($705.88 million) between December 8th and 14th, far exceeding the daily turnover of 500 million yuan during the same period last year."
His words echoed those of another two managers of e-commerce websites.
"From December, the transaction volume on Paipai.com grew fivefold from last year," said Yang Sha, PR manager of Paipai.com, a domestic e-commerce website.
Qiao Yajuan, manager of an e-commerce website liyi99.com, said she expected the Christmas sales this year would double from a year ago.
"Though gift prices rose 20 percent year on year on average, consumers' passion for shopping isn't flagging," she said.
Orders dropped last year amid the financial crisis when most people just browsed the web but rarely placed orders.
"Shoppers looked for practical gifts instead of luxuries ones last year. But it seems luxury gifts are back as jewels and bullion sales have grown sharply this year," Qiao said, "We have had to hire more delivery people to meet the increasing Christmas demand."
Every year, many female white collar workers rush to Hong Kong to shop as its stores and malls often give big discounts during the Christmas season. But this year, shopping online is where they go first.
Tong Hongling, 24, an employee of Dabao company, said she decided not to fly to Hong Kong this Christmas as she found Taobao had the cosmetics she wanted and cost 60 percent less than the market price."
"Estee Lauder's face cleanser sells at 175 yuan in Taobao and it was priced around 280 yuan in department stores," Tong said.
"What's more, the money I saved on air tickets is enough for me to buy several Estee Lauder's cosmetic packages," she said.
"More and more people find bargains on the net. Premium cosmetics, jewelry, digital products have sold like hot cakes in recent days," Paipai's Yang Sha said.
Some people have switched to online shopping because of the H1N1 pandemic.
Xu Fen, a mother of a one-year-old baby, said: "My boy is too small, so I have to do everything possible to prevent him getting H1N1. Shopping online avoids the Christmas crowds and lessens the chance of getting the virus."
Compared with a year earlier, the peak sales season started earlier this year and would last till the end of the lunar New Year, said an executive of youa.com, an e-commerce unit under Baidu, China's famous searching engine.
Zhang Yanping, an analyst with iResearch Consulting Group, attributed online sales growth to the country's economic recovery which lifted people's consumption confidence, especially those in second and third-tier cities.
Hu Guanzhong, an analyst with Taobao, said the fast development of the cyber economy played a crucial role in boosting Christmas sales this year.
According to a report released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) earlier this month, online shoppers jumped almost 39 percent year on year to 87.88 million as of June this year and the figure would probably grow with increasing internet access for low income earners.
By 2010 the value of online transactions would be over 3 percent of the total volume of retail sales, according to iResearch.
Online sales would continue to grow next year as China becomes more reliant on domestic consumption, it said.