> Solar Eclipse
Online biz shines as sun loses luster
By Cao Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-23 07:46

SHANGHAI: As many others geared up to catch the solar eclipse of the century, former teacher Zhu Yan spotted a shining opportunity to rake in some cash.

Sales from protective goggles to view the eclipse helped the 27-year-old businesswoman make at least half a million yuan ($73,000) in two weeks.

Like many other vendors on auction website Taobao.com, Zhu worked day and night to sell goggles, binoculars and other paraphernalia for watching the eclipse.

"I have not slept for four days," Zhu said yesterday morning.

The native of Zhejiang province founded her Internet business in 2007 during summer vacation, selling secondhand books, telescopes and binoculars.

Her first opportunity came with the Beijing Olympics, when viewers bought binoculars to watch the Games.

Last year, she sold about 3 million yuan worth of goods and quit her job.

"I have been seeing more orders than ever," she said.

She sells goods worth more than 100,000 yuan every day. She makes an average profit of 30 percent and has had to hire three helpers to answer phone calls and online messages, as well as arrange for transporting the goods.

"One day, I replenished a stock of 1,000 solar-eclipse goggles and 500 were sold out immediately," she said.

Gear to watch the solar eclipse has been so popular that Zhu has sometimes found it difficult to find supplies.

"I ordered more than 3,000 sets of solar-eclipse goggles on the weekend from a factory and was later told it had sold them to others," she said.

And on Monday when her stock ran out again, Zhu and her helpers had to make several hundred phone calls to apologize.

"People are crazy about the solar eclipse and are still buying binoculars today, maybe as a token for the once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon," she said yesterday.

(China Daily 07/23/2009 page3)