Looking abroad

Updated: 2011-02-25 11:14

By Gao Qihui (China Daily European Weekly)

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 Looking abroad

Customers look for products at a store offering overseas purchasing service in Beijing. Provided to China Daily

Overseas purchasing services are attracting millions of Chinese customers

Jia Huiyi, a 27-year-old woman working in Beijing, explored a new way of shopping when she used an overseas purchasing service to buy a pair of popular UGG boots.

She paid 557 yuan (62 euros) for her boots from a Chinese Australian who runs an online store for Chinese mainland customers. The same boots in a franchised store on the mainland would have cost more than 2,000 yuan, Jia says.

Jia is one of millions who have been attracted by overseas purchasing services, most of which provide online agents. The primary attractions are price, selection and quality, including safety of some products. And the results are lucrative.

Use of the services by mainland customers last year was worth 12 billion yuan, a 140 percent increase from 2009. The total is expected to double this year, says the Monitoring Report on the Data of China's E-commerce Market in 2010 by the China E-commerce Research Center.

Consumers can buy directly from other foreign websites, but Chinese mainland consumers rarely use them. Foreign online shops are unfamiliar to them. Plus there are language barriers, shipping restrictions and requirements that bank cards be set up for international use.

Brands from outside the Chinese mainland are the shoppers' primary targets because of big price differences between the mainland and overseas markets, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. That is why Jia chose to buy her boots from Australia, thousands of kilometers from China.

International brands often set high prices for goods sold on the Chinese mainland because people are willing to pay them, Zhu Mingxia, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told China Daily for a previous report. But now, with overseas purchasing services, shoppers can get the same quality goods at lower prices.

They also have more to choose from.

"Many products are not sold in the mainland and there are more styles in foreign stores," says Li Lei, 23 and a graduate student at Communication University of China in Beijing. "If the price is right, I will buy."

Supporting data comes from Shi Yang, marketing manager of, which specializes in overseas purchases.

"Roughly 70 percent of all product categories provided by our website are not sold on the Chinese mainland." As one example, Shi says more than 60 percent of Coach handbags and accessories sold on her website are not available on the mainland.

The report shows that cosmetics and powdered milk, produced under higher safety requirements overseas, were the most popular products of online overseas purchasing services in 2010. They were followed in popularity by luggage and handbags, hats and shoes, clothing, and electronics.

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