When life changes, people buy different things. And we are seeing some interesting trends in what people are buying online during the extended quarantined. From private and publicly accessible databases, such as Shengyi Canmou, a platform that tracks sales data from Alibaba's Tmall, Meituan, and installment sales outlet Fenqile, we are able to take a more granular look at China retail trends by product category, identifying some bright spots.
Grocery and cooking products
Across China, people have been cooking at home rather than venturing into public to dine out. In fact, most restaurants had already closed during the Spring Festival holiday, but as the outbreak spread, fears of contagion kept food and beverage venues from reopening, prompting a surge of interest in both recipes and kitchenware from home cooks. For the online group-buying platform Pinduoduo, egg poachers were included in the "Top Ten Best Selling Product List" for the period of Jan. 24 to Feb. 14.
According to Meituan, China's largest local services platform, online searches for baking goods jumped a hundredfold during the Lunar New Year holiday. Sales of condimentsalso increased more than eight times during the same period. Instant noodles were the most popular food on Meituan among consumers born after 1990, with a sales volume of 15.9 million.
Home cleaning products
Likely encouraged by the Chinese government's advice to clean frequently touched surfaces and objects regularly to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, demand for home cleaning products has surged dramatically. Data from Shengyi Canmou shows that January sales of home cleaning products have jumped 210% year-on-year, as shown below.
Personal care products
The Covid-19 outbreak has also boosted sales of personal hygiene products. On JD.com, 1.8 million bottles of disinfectant solution and 3 million bottles of liquid soap were sold during the Chinese New Year holiday. According to data from Shengyi Canmou, the total sales value of the body wash category increased by 96.9% to RMB 438 million in January 2020, compared to January 2019.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, most people in China got medicine from public hospitals. According to online pharmaceutical platform Menet, sales revenue (in Chinese) for medicine in China was RMB 171.3 bilion in 2018, of which, RMB 115.4, or 67.4% of total sales revenue, came from public hospitals, while RMB 9.9 billion, or 1% of total sales revenue, came from online stores.
Electronics are a mixed picture. Alibaba, which presented a broadly pessimistic picture of online sales during its recent earnings call, picked out electronics as down during the virus period. But Fenqile, a smaller player that focuses on installment sales and is the only company to release numbers for the category, saw substantially increased sales in its published data.