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An increasing number of Chinese Internet users are turning their attention toward Japanese shopping websites as a weakening yen has made goods cheaper for overseas buyers.
The Japanese currency at one point touched 15.19 yen (17 US cents) per yuan on Feb 24, its lowest in more than four years after registering a closing price of 16.27 yen per yuan on Aug 18, 2008, amid concerns that it has been weakening its exchange rate to fuel growth through exports, according to currency information website Xe.com.
Tao Meikun, a reporter in Beijing, tried his luck the first time on a Japanese e-commerce website earlier this month to take advantage of the lower exchange rate.
He bought a Kindle Paperwhite, the latest e-reader released by Amazon.com Inc, for 7,980 yen, or 532.6 yuan, plus an additional forwarding fee of about 60 yuan, from Amazon's Japanese branch.
An active customer of overseas e-commerce websites, Tao made eight overseas purchases online last year, mainly buying electronic products and handbags. He saved more than 200 yuan buying from Japan as the Kindle is priced at $119, or 742 yuan, on Amazon's US website.
Tech-savvy online shoppers like Tao started their overseas shopping attempts a couple of years ago, as value-added tax, import tariffs and consumption taxes jointly lead to the high price of foreign goods sold in China.
The change in the yen's exchange rate has led to a noticeable increase in the number of purchases from Chinese buyers on Japanese websites in the past two months, said Lin Changqing, business development director of the consumer business department of PayPal China, based on its transaction figures. PayPal Inc is eBay's online payment arm.
He cited a purchasing agent that uses PayPal as the payment solution. Transaction volumes from Japanese websites through the agent have almost doubled year-on-year during the past two months, with clothes, cosmetics and animation products being the most popular categories among Chinese online shoppers.
However, "e-commerce websites in North America and Europe are the main choices of Chinese online shoppers", he added.
From Nov 23 to 27 last year, part of the US online holiday shopping season, Chinese online shoppers spent 140 percent more year-on-year on overseas purchases from US e-commerce websites, according to figures from Alipay.com Co Ltd, China's largest online payment company.
There are two main ways for Chinese online shoppers to buy from overseas e-commerce websites. They can buy through a purchasing agent, or purchase individually via a delivery forwarding company, as most overseas websites don't support direct shipment to China.
In 2012, these types of overseas purchases were estimated to be worth 48.3 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 82.2 percent, according to domestic research company China e-Business Research Center. It forecast that the total transaction volume will reach 74.4 billion yuan this year.
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