February 14 Undercurrentnews.com

China’s largest-scale shopping carnival has come to an end with the ending of the lunar New Year holiday recently. Impressively, its residents spent more than 1 trillion yuan celebrating the holiday. One new feature of festival consumption is that imported commodities have become increasingly popular and affordable for frenzied Chinese consumers.

According to Alibaba, the country’s e-commerce giant, king crabs have become a hot choice for the festival feast. Their sales ballooned by 769% on its T-mall platform around this festival compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile, the platform has sold out 600,000 gift baskets that consist of high-end seafood such as king crabs.

In addition to great popularity online, imported seafood products are also widely received among shoppers of virtual stores. For example, consumers in Guangzhou have shown a preference to foreign seafood like Alaskan king crabs, Canadian lobsters and Norwegian cod. Lin, one local resident, told a reporter that this year she has given one king crab as the festival gift to her relative. The king crab is about 5 to 6 jin (1 jin=0.5 kilo) and sold at 1,680 yuan ($248 USD).

Sam’s Club of Walmart brought in 1,044 king crabs to meet the demand of its consumers. At the same time, the seven Hema stores in Guangzhou are said to have sold thousands of king crabs on the eve of Chinese New Year, while seafood sales skyrocketed and reached about six to seven times that of weekend sales that day. Grandbuy, chain supermarkets renowned in Guangzhou, witnessed an increase of 58% in its frozen seafood sales during this festival. Imported shrimps and salmon are the most popular among the buyers.

In Qingdao, foreign seafood has also enjoyed great success during the Chinese New Year. Locals are enthusiastic about seafood such as king crabs and lobsters, although their prices have increased to different extents. For example, king crabs are priced at 230 yuan/jin ($181.50 USD), while the price is about 400 yuan to 500 yuan ($59 to $74 USD) for one lobster. But their sales are about three to four times that of everyday sales, and store owners have to restock their shelves twice every day.

Liu, one buyer, bought a 329-yuan ($48.60 USD) Boston lobster, and she said that it is quite economical as a festival dish. The traditional dishes of chicken, duck and fish are getting boring now, and imported seafood products are more attractive choices, added Liu. This year Wang, another consumer, paid 1,199 yuan ($177 USD) to buy one king crab. Now locals can easily get access to seafood like king crabs and lobsters, which are delicious and look good, said Xie, one restaurant owner.

In Hangzhou, seafood sales peaked around the festival, and the average sales volume doubled. Imported seafood has become common in local households and they are served as main dishes during the festival feast. Thanks to an increase in the costs of such factors as labor and logistics, there is some increase in the prices of those seafood. For example, king crabs are sold at 235 yuan/jin ($34.68 USD), while Boston lobsters are at 100 yuan/jin ($14.76 USD).

Imported seafood is getting more and more popular in China now because it is healthy and, possibly more importantly, it is used to be recognized as the choice of high-end consumers.

Tasting good and looking good are both of great significance when it comes to dishes for the reunion dinner on the eve of the Chinese New Year, possibly the most important dinner in China. There are many traditions during the biggest festival in China, and splurging on a grand meal is one of them.