From ‘getting rich is not difficult’ to bankruptcy in 3 months: How did the Covid-19 epidemic push Chinese car dealers into poverty?

Tram Ho

For many years, Zhu Nini’s daily job was to dive in the fashion paradise in Dongdaemun – one of Seoul’s most famous markets. She takes selfie sticks, live-streams for about 100,000 of her fans in China and helps them buy things as they like.

Zhu’s Korean life, 32, ended unexpectedly last January, when she flew back to Wuhan to celebrate Tet with her family. Only a few days later, the 11 million-people city shut down completely due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Wuhan has ended the blockade so far, but Zhu, like thousands of other Chinese professional traders, has yet to go abroad.

A hunt for Zhu Nini in Korea

“The pandemic has left many industries in distress, exhausted of resources and struggling to survive – daigou is definitely in this group,” Zhu said.

Daigou job in Central: From making fast money to stagnant income

Daigou are Chinese people who go abroad to hunt for goods and then sell them on the mainland. Items range from luxury items to baby formula, which are rarely found, are not diverse, or have high prices in China after imports. Daigou has long been regarded as a “gray market” due to the use of various methods, both legal and illegal, to avoid import duties when shipping goods back home.

The market is estimated to provide jobs for 1 million people and generate billions of dollars each year. In 2014, 4 out of 10 luxury products sold to Chinese people were purchased by daigou, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. In particular, Korea is the most concentrated coordinates daigou by famous for beauty products and fashion.

However, trade abruptly stopped when countries restricted movement, forced isolation from entry and closure of many shopping stores, and even stopped international freight.

 Từ làm giàu không khó đến phá sản trong 3 tháng: Dịch Covid-19 đẩy người buôn hàng xách tay ở Trung Quốc vào cảnh khánh kiệt như thế nào? - Ảnh 2.

Myeongdong shopping paradise in Seoul, South Korea becomes bleak amid the pandemic (Image: Newsis / Xinhua)

It is known that there are 2 branches daigou in China. One is a local daigou, which specializes in “regional” overseas and sends goods back home. The second is the “real money paddy” daigou, fly back and forth between China and international destinations and then directly carry goods. Their common point is that they suffer from crisis between pandemics.

Chen Yuanyuan belongs to the second group. For many years, she kept low-cost tickets to Korea, shopping for lipstick, masks, skin care products … at the duty-free shop. Chen’s neat and low-cost approach helped her overcome many of the fluctuations of the daigou market, such as the rise of e-commerce platforms or commercial law in 2009, thereby tightening regulations. taxable for daigou.

Since returning to Xiamen City for the New Year, Chen has been stuck in his home country for months. She used to be a salaried worker, only seeing daigou as a left hand job so she wouldn’t risk venturing abroad.

Passengers traveling between China – Korea must be separated for 2 weeks, both for travel and for a total of exactly 1 month. Those who violate will be dealt with very seriously. In March, Beijing detained 36 daigou from South Korea for medical surveillance. Local police also put another 50 daigous on a “black list” banning air travel, making them unable to leave China.

“Every day a lot of customers ask me when I’m going to fly to Korea. I tell them ‘until this pandemic is controlled globally’. I still have many new customers and orders, but because he could not move, his business was incomplete “ – Chen said.

The daigou in the West also struggled, this market will collapse?

Daigou living abroad are also in dire poverty. They did not worry about movement and isolation, but now transportation services are operating in moderation.

Long, a specialist in high-end Paris-based hunting, said the delivery was very arduous. A shipment that used to be directly shipped between France and China now has to go through intermediaries such as India, South Korea, Singapore and various cities in China before reaching the recipient. “Normally only after 7-10 days, customers have got the product, but now it takes 3 weeks” – Long said.

 Từ làm giàu không khó đến phá sản trong 3 tháng: Dịch Covid-19 đẩy người buôn hàng xách tay ở Trung Quốc vào cảnh khánh kiệt như thế nào? - Ảnh 3.

Delivery and logistics services have only begun to recover in China for a few weeks (Image: Sixth Tone)

Long is still worried about his health. “In early January, I heard that the first three people infected with Covid-19 in Paris were tourists who used to shop in many shopping centers,” – Long said. From there, she felt that luxury stores like Balenciaga, Chanel or Gucci had become more scary because they could gather more foreigners.

By mid-March, Paris has completely closed shopping centers. At that time, Long also changed his WeChat account name to “The shopping area is closed”, reminding customers to stop shopping in the current situation.

“If there is any daigou in France, England, Italy saying that they are still in line to buy things for you, please unfriend. It is impossible” – Long said.

 Từ làm giàu không khó đến phá sản trong 3 tháng: Dịch Covid-19 đẩy người buôn hàng xách tay ở Trung Quốc vào cảnh khánh kiệt như thế nào? - Ảnh 4.

Luxury stores have simultaneously closed in England, France, Italy … when the Covid pandemic swept Europe (Image: AFP / Xinhua)

Not only did income sources reach zero quickly, the daigou also suffered persistent economic consequences. Customers’ shopping habits may change forever after a pandemic. Moreover, the competition between daigous is fiercer than ever due to the explosion of the live-streaming platform. Only those who attract the attention of the online community, catch the fast trend can exist.

For example, Zhu Nini in Wuhan, she said that in 2017, I could make a profit of 60 yuan (200,000 dong) for a t-shirt. But right now, a profit of 10 yuan is already lucky. “Daigou who have a high following and sell about 10,000 products a day can still make a lot of money. But rookies in this industry are hard to stand,” – Zhu commented.

A live-stream sales session of Zhu Nini

At the moment, Zhu is focusing on connecting with loyal customers and a thick wallet. But if next time it still fails to expand the customer file, it will be difficult for Zhu to continue his daigou work. “A pandemic has rocked the market, and I probably can’t get through it.”

(According to Sixth Tone)

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Source : Genk