Sales of air purifiers and face masks leap on Taobao as China vanishes in smog

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 4:41pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 4:45pm

Sales of air purifiers and face masks have gone through the roof in China as the country struggles with the worst smog so far this winter.

Interest in both measures for dealing with China’s hazardous air has reached unprecedented dimensions on Taobao, China’s biggest online commerce site for consumers operated by e-commerce giant Alibaba, over the past few days after schools were closed and hundreds of flights diverted due to pollution.

PM2.5 levels were more than 24 times the World Health Organisation’s safety guidelines in some areas of the Yangtze River Delta.

Taobao’s indexes on searches and sales have seen unprecedented spikes over the past few days. Both indexes are calculated from data on transactions and measure trends on the e-commerce platform, but do not represent actual search and sales figures.

The index for searches for air purifiers on the e-commerce platform saw a 513 per cent increase for the past seven days compared to the preceding seven days and a 1,431.2 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, data by Taobao shows. The index for the sale of air purifiers on Taobao increased 267.5 per cent for the past seven days compared to the preceding seven days and 1,264.4 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Similarly, interest in face masks has spiked, with the index on searches increasing 267.8 per cent in the last seven days, compared to the preceding seven days. The index on sales has increased 173.1 per cent.

Sales of face masks were highest in coastal China, peaking in the country’s commercial hub Shanghai and the surrounding provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, followed by the capital Beijing and the port city of Tianjin, according to Taobao data accumulated between October 1 and December 9. Shanghai also tops the ranking in sales of air purifiers, followed by Beijing, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Tianjin.

The most popular brands include Philips, Sharp and Daikin and the average price is around 2,000 to 3,000 yuan (HK$2,536 to HK$3,805), according to an Alibaba spokesperson.

Meanwhile, savvy traders in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, are using smog to boost their sales. Two botanical stores sold around 200 plants promising to cleanse air of PM2.5 particles on Sunday, the local Dahe Daily reported on Tuesday.