Julie Li — not her real name — is laden with Harrods carrier bags full of cosmetics, but they are not hers; the 30-year-old finance graduate from Beijing is a full-time freelance retail consultant, something known in China as a daigou.
Dressed in a fashionable white Reiss dress and holding a light color Chanel leather handbag, Li is glued to her smartphone. She is using the messaging app Wechat to communicate with clients in China who are willing to pay a premium for authentic luxury goods that are usually relatively cheaper than they are in China.
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Having developed three major wholesale clients, each with around 300 customers, Li buys 10,000 pounds’ worth of top-end lipsticks on behalf of clients every day. Charging 5 percent of the retail price and handling large quantities on a daily basis, she is able to pocket as much as 20,000 pounds in commission during a good month.
Business has boomed in recent years, accounting for RMB 34 billion to RMB 50 billion ($5 billion to $7.4 billion) in global sales last year, according to a report from consultants Bain & Company.
The buyers are mainly from the Chinese mainland and specialise in helping customers in China buy luxury products, including bags and cosmetics, as well as health supplements, such as baby milk formula.
Observers note that safety standards are one of the reasons why some Chinese consumers buy Western products.
SEE ALSO: From Australia to China: ‘Daigou’ shoppers do big business
Earlier this year, the Chinese authorities tightened regulations around cross-border online shopping. Commentators say the changes, to Chinese customs regulations and ecommerce has dented the daigou’s trade, but Zhen has adjusted by shipping four cans at a time instead of six.
Daigou shoppers admit their industry exists in a grey zone legally and is likely to be short-lived, but Li is cashing in for as long as she is able.
(Source: China Daily)