HANGZHOU, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- With the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar still more than a month away, a war without fire is drawing to a close for merchants in Yiwu, in eastern China's Zhejiang Province and thousands of miles away from Qatar.
"We are near the end of the sales related to the World Cup. We will probably deliver all goods out by the end of the month," said Wu Xiaoming, a sporting equipment retailer at Yiwu International Trade Market.
Wu owns Aokai Sporting Equipments, which sells mainly football products with the best record of selling 1.5 million footballs a year. Wu's company has official authorization to produce goods for the 2022 World Cup.
"The third quarter is often the slack season for small commodity exports, but due to World Cup-related products, it has turned into boom season instead," said Wu. "As a result, our orders increased by 70 percent compared to the same period last year."
Besides Wu, Chen Xianchun, who primarily sells souvenirs like World Cup trophies, medals, key chains and other accessories, has been engaged in foreign trade in Yiwu for nearly 18 years. Her orders increased by nearly 50 percent year-on-year this summer.
According to Chen, the increase in the number of orders is significant compared to last year, although there is still a gap between this year and the corresponding period before the pandemic. And in the past two years, because of COVID-19, there have been fewer overseas traders who are able to come to Yiwu to choose goods on the spot, but overseas demand has remained strong.
The epidemic in Yiwu in early August led to a slowdown in exports, which also made some businesses increase the proportion of online sales as a result. "Most customers chose to communicate with us online. We could show the materials and styles of the products to customers through live streaming. Although our workload increased, our customer experience became better," said Chen. "All the World Cup orders have been sent out."
According to Yiwu Customs, in the first eight months of this year, Yiwu exported 3.82 billion yuan (536.8 million U.S. dollars) of sporting goods and 9.66 billion yuan of toys. By region, exports to Brazil were 7.58 billion yuan, up 56.7 percent compared to the same period last year, while exports to Argentina and Spain reached 1.39 billion yuan, up 67.2 percent and 4.29 billion yuan, up 95.8 percent, respectively.
In order to deliver World Cup-related products more quickly to fans around the world, Yiwu set up a "World Cup Special Transport Network" in mid-September. It only takes World Cup-related products manufactured in Yiwu 20 to 25 days to travel from Ningbo and Shanghai to Hamad Port in Qatar through this special maritime transport network.
The Yiwu Sports Goods Association estimates that Yiwu products have taken nearly 70 percent of the market share of World Cup accessories, including goods ranging from national flags to cheering horns and whistles, from footballs, jerseys and scarves, to ornaments and pillows of the World Cup trophy.
Although the number of orders increased, profits were not as high as expected due to the rise in prices of raw materials and other factors. Wu said the price of raw materials rose by 15 percent, and fixed costs such as labor also rose this year. In addition, they had to pay a large amount of freight to rush for the shipping date.
"Our current aim is not to make profits, but to attract customers and enable the business to operate normally," said Chen. "The external influence is temporary, and we are full of confidence in the future."