BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Xinhuanet) -- It's that time of year when there is an eagerness to surprise loved ones with gifts and greetings. Yes, Valentine's Day, which falls on Feb 14, is making its mark on buying habits.
Zhou Yao, married for five years, received a NanoCare facial steamer from her husband.
"Chinese people are often too shy to express love or affection to their loved ones. Valentine's Day serves as a perfect occasion," she said. "Gift-giving is not a must, but receiving a gift makes me feel warm and cared for."
Chinese romantics are increasingly buying premium chocolate and other confectionaries for the romantic day, so it is a "sweet" season for some manufacturers, according to Jason Yu, general manager of Kantar Worldpanel, a global researcher of buying habits.
Many men take their date out for a nice meal. Izzie Huang, marketing manager with DiningCity, a high-end restaurant guild website, said medium-range deals — priced around 500 yuan ($82) for two people — are the best sellers, while those costing more are less attractive.
Because of the government's ongoing austerity campaign to curb luxury spending with public funds, sales of high-end goods and dining at luxury restaurants have slumped, Huang said. About 70 percent of their deals are booked by women and are paid for by their men.
"Chinese women put more thought into planning the special day than men do," she said.
Chinese e-retailers, who it can strongly be argued invented Singles' Day and successfully turned Nov 11 into the country's biggest online shopping carnival, also couldn't resist the opportunity to cash in on the special occasion, even one attracting non-singles.
Statistics from e-commerce retailer Amazon China show the number of men who look for Valentines' gifts for their female partners is three times that of women who look for gifts for men.
The most popular gifts at Amazon China are clothes, handbags, luggage and electronics.
According to marketplace website Taobao, flowers and chocolates are still the mainstream gifts for the special day, but their popularity is decreasing with more people looking for something special for their loved ones.
Taobao said purchases of flowers are estimated to decrease to 6.12 percent of all items bought for Valentine's Day.
Tailor-made and personalized gifts stand out as the new hot options for the lovers' day.
Nearly 70 percent of people said at an online forum of Taobao said they would like to have a custom-made gift for Valentine's Day.
A specially made coin with the couple's photo on it, a cupid train ticket saying it travels between their respective hearts and a box of condoms shaped like Ferrero Rocher chocolates are the top three popular Valentine's gifts at Taobao.
Taobao and Tmall, two leading online marketplaces owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, have teamed up with the Netherlands consulate general to allow online shoppers to pre-order Dutch tulips, which are expected to be plucked on Feb 10 in the Netherlands and delivered to customers' doorsteps on Feb 14.
Brian Hui, vice-president of Amazon China, said young people are the major customers for e-commerce websites in China.
"Those who shop online are the exactly same group of people who would like to celebrate Valentine's Day in China," he said.
Hui from Amazon China said that tech-savvy young Chinese are very comfortable shopping online and tend to make e-commerce websites their top channel for finding Valentine's Day gifts because of the convenience of online shopping.
A spokesman at Chow Tai Fook Jewelry Group Ltd said gem-set products in floral shapes and heart shapes are most popular.
"As young buyer group consider Valentine's Day more seriously than other age groups, our promotion focuses on online channels."
"We see a trend that Valentine's Day is increasingly important to young Chinese consumers," the spokesman said.
Mao Ajing, an e-commerce analyst with the Beijing-based research firm Analysys International, said providing tailor-made and creative gifts are one of the unique advantages that online platforms possess, compared with brick-and-mortar stores.
She said Valentine's Day is not a shopping event as big as the Nov 11 Singles' Day shopping spree because it is too close to China's Spring Festival.
"A lot of people have to be frugal because they have already spent a lot before the festival.
"In addition, with couriers and delivery people still in the mood to celebrate the Chinese New Year, there is no guarantee of delivery. But it is certainly becoming an increasingly important event for e-commerce players," Mao said.
Newlywed Zhang Jing, a 32-year-old, bought a handbag from Taobao using her husband's account. "He wanted to give me a surprise. But he was not sure what I would like. So I am glad I can choose my own gift," she said.
In return, she purchased a chocolate with their names on it from an online service. "But I was told the gift would not arrive on time because of logistics challenges after the weeklong Spring Festival," she said.
(Source: China Daily)