East China's entrepreneurs meeting Qatar 2022 demand
World Cup merchandise is displayed for sale at a market in Doha, Qatar.
With the FIFA 2022 World Cup kicking off in Qatar next month, manufacturers of the tournament's official merchandise in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, say business has been brisk despite the challenging global business environment.
"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 Equipment, which sells mostly soccer products. The 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."
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 the figures are lower than 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 for business, yet overseas demand has remained strong.
The epidemic in Yiwu in early August led to a slowdown in exports, prompting businesses to increase the proportion of their online sales.
"Most customers chose to communicate with us online. We can display the materials and styles of the products to customers through livestreaming," explained Chen.
"Although our workload increased, our customer experience has improved. 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) 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 as quickly as possible 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 maritime network.
The Yiwu Sports Goods Association estimates that Yiwu products have enjoyed nearly 70 percent of the market share of World Cup accessories, including goods ranging from national flags, jerseys and scarves, to ornaments and pillows emblazoned with images of the World Cup trophy.
Although the number of orders increased, profits were not as high as expected due to the high cost 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 for freight.
"Our current priority is not profit but to attract customers and enable the business to operate normally," said Chen. "The external influence is temporary, and we are full of confidence for the future."
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