Local Specialties Get New Chance Online
    2010-02-11 15:16:12     CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Liu Donghui

The beehives scattered across the Simingshan mountain in Shaoxing city, east China's Zhejiang province. [Photo courtesy of Yin Na]

by Liu Donghui

Yin Na can finally begin her Spring Festival holiday on Wednesday of this week, as she has finished all the delivery work of honey products to online shoppers.

With the festival for reunion approaching, the orders of Yin's homemade treats came in great numbers. Each day of the past month, she had to send out up to 500 packages from her hometown - Shaoxing city in east China's Zhejiang province, to buyers across the country.

"Trading volume in the past 30 days reached 300-thousand yuan, 30% higher than previous months," she estimated, confessing that she has had no time to do the account work yet.

The 29-year-old started her online business in March last year on Taobao.com, China's largest online auction site, when the self-made honey food faced difficulty in export sales, trying to find a new distribution channel for the family business that has lasted for more than 40 years.

The Yin family has a total of 19 bee-raising farms which are scattered across the local Simingshan Mountain and other provinces as well.

"We usually go to northwest China's Shaanxi province to collect the nectar of flos sophorae, and to the northeast of China for linden flowers," Yin said this is to ensure that they can get the best nectar of a specific species of flower. The nectar will then be made into honey, pollen, and propolis products at the family's own factory.

Now nearly 60 kinds of products are being displayed at Yin's online shop, with more than 60,000 items sold in less than one year.

Among them is one specialty by Yin's mother. It is a pickle product made with rose petals and honey, usually called the "rose sauce". In the past, the treat was only served to family members but now it has sold 2,600 bottles online in just one month.

Wang Chong, one of the rose sauce fans in Hangzhou, bought 12 items within three months. "I usually consume one bottle a month. It is good for digestion. So I bought several more for my parents and friends."

The homemade treat's salability was beyond Yin's expectations. She said she recommended it to some regular customers by chance, but never expected so many orders.

Along with the specialty's increasing popularity, it brought Yin some small problems as well.

Unlike regular branded products, the sauce was not registered and was simply packaged. Some buyers said this was a problem in spite of its fresh taste. Such negative feedback forced Yin to register a trademark for it. Now her mother leads a team of about 20 workers to make the "licensed" rose sauce.

Specialties from many other places are also available to the 170 million users on Taobao.com. The website's public relations manager Yan Qiao says food occupied the largest share in this year's Spring Festival purchases which also include small home appliances, gifts, and house decorations.

"January's food sales reached 700-million yuan, nearly 70 percent of the total festival purchasing, and almost three times the same period last year," Qiao said. "Since online shopping is both time and energy saving, it has become a part of the new lifestyle of the young generation in big cities."

On Taobao, 70 percent of the users are aged between 17 and 35. But for the older age groups, the complicated purchase procedure may stop them thinking about shopping from the internet. Fortunately, the company's new move will favor this group of potential customers.

Yan says that Taobao will set up 30,000 purchasing agencies at community stores this year. People just need to order what they want, and the staff will do the online shopping instead.

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