Chen Xiaodong, VP of Alibaba and CEO of InTime, speaks with Arjun Kharpal of CNBC at the opening speeches of the CNBC East Tech West Conference on November 17, 2020 in Nansha, Guangzhou, China.
Zhong Zhi | Getty Images
After the coronavirus pandemic, China’s consumers are spending less time shopping – but they are spending more money than before, according to a CEO of an Alibaba-owned company.
Chinese buyers are particularly willing to pay big bucks for luxury goods and cosmetics, InTime CEO Chen Xiaodong said Tuesday. His remarks came during CNBC’s annual East Tech West Conference, held this year both remotely and on-site in Guangzhou’s Nansha district, China.
InTime is one of the largest department store operators in China and was taken over by the technology pig Alibaba in 2017.
“The consumer intent is still there. People want to spend more money compared to last year, but the time they spend on a shopping trip (has been reduced),” he told CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal the opening speech of the conference.
Earlier this year, InTime temporarily closed 65 of its stores for a few weeks when China was put on hold for fighting the pandemic.
During that time, the company was able to leverage Alibaba’s e-commerce expertise and logistics to move its sales to the internet.
InTime used Alibaba’s live streaming platform Taobao Live, to increase the number of streams where viewers had the opportunity to place orders directly from Intime’s online shop. Several thousand salespeople from the physical stores are said to have been registered as live streaming hosts to simplify the streams.
Chen said that InTime had already picked up on trends around online shopping such as live streaming before the pandemic. The virus merely “accelerated the digitization process for physical stores,” he said.
With the pandemic now relatively under control in China, customers are slow to return to physical stores for security reasons, Chen said. He added that sales have rebounded from a year ago and about 20% of these currently come from the Internet.
However, InTime has no plans to push customers in one direction – either the physical stores or the online store. According to Chen, it depends on people’s habits. However, he pointed out that live streaming has its advantages when a sales rep can potentially serve a thousand or 10,000 people simultaneously over the stream while in the physical store they can only serve a handful of customers at a time.
“Well, it’s very convenient,” said Chen.
China’s retail sales in October continued their upward trend, increasing 4.3% year over year as more consumers opened their wallets. While the number fell short of analysts’ expectations, it still grew faster than its 3.3% surge in September.