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December 18, 2013

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Shoppers splash out to fight the smog

The pollution choking large parts of China has boosted online sales of masks and air purifiers, with around 870 million yuan (US$143 million) spent on such items this year, online shopping site Taobao said yesterday.

Shanghai residents spent 69.85 million yuan and showed the most interest in masks and purifiers among shoppers from across the country, followed by those in the city’s neighboring provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu, China’s largest consumer-oriented shopping site said. 

Searches for masks and air purifiers soared at the beginning of December and peaked on December 6, when Shanghai and neighboring regions were suffering their most serious air pollution, with the air quality index and PM2.5 density at their worst since official records began about a year ago.

In Shanghai, searches for air purifiers in the past 30 days had rocketed 679 percent compared with the same period of last year while interest in masks rose by 312 percent, Taobao said.

Across the country as a whole, the number of people buying masks surged 181 percent compared to last year, while air purifier sales soared 131 percent, Taobao added.

Another online shopping site,, said its sales of masks and air purifiers nationwide had soared by 6,050 percent and 685 percent compared with last year.

“The figures are not unexpected as people care more about the harm of bad air with a raft of media reports these days, and it became a craze to grab such kind of products, boosting their sales,” said Chao Gang, director of the marketing management research center of the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

Xu Bin, who works for a Shanghai magazine, said he had been waiting for about 10 days for an air purifier for which he had paid more than 4,000 yuan. 

“I already have one air purifier at home, but it doesn’t seem to have good effect, thus my wife and I decided to buy another one due to the worsening air quality,” Xu said.

He was told he would have to wait up to 20 days before he could receive the product as orders had piled up at the Sweden-based brand’s factory in China. Its price had also risen from about 3,000-plus yuan, Xu said.

Another Shanghai resident, surnamed Ai, said that she had bought 15 masks since late November.

Ai has also bought an air purifier for 2,400 yuan after almost all her colleagues in the office were  talking about it on December 6, the day when air pollution was at its worst in the city.

“I have also spent more than 500 yuan purchasing a lot of foods like black agaric, Chinese red dates, or jujubes, and tremella, all said to have good effect in minimizing the harm of pollution,” she said.

Smog has been plaguing large areas of China since the beginning of December, closing schools and highways and delaying flights.

Heavy haze shrouded north and east China, with the Yangtze River Delta region among the worst hit.

Shanghai’s PM2.5 density surged past 600 micrograms per cubic meter, more than eight times the nation’s limit of 75, on December 6, with the air quality index reaching the highest range of severe pollution.



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