After the Chinese enamel spittoon (or chamber pot) was sold as an “enamel fruit basket” on US e-commerce platform Amazon at a shockingly-high price, inquiries and orders for the enamel spittoon rushed to Chinese manufacturers.
“The price of the chamber pot or spittoon from source suppliers like our company is on average 13 yuan ($2.01). On Amazon, the enamel spittoons are selling for $61 each, a nearly 30-fold increase,” a manager surnamed Meng of Shandong Feifan Export and Import Co. told the Global Times on Friday. The company is based in Linyi, East China’s Shandong Province, where 80 percent of the country’s enamel is produced.
An Amazon seller described the chamber pot as a “Chinese traditional fruit basket, Chinese antique kitchen and dining table decoration enamel.” It is also sold at a price of C$68 ($53.8) as “a luxury decoration enamel that can hold wine and fruit” in Canada.
She added that many clients rushed to make inquiries in the past few days, but few have made orders.
Another seller on 1688.com, a B2B e-commerce platform of Alibaba, surnamed Cao said that he even received a phone call asking if there was a discount on buying 100,000 spittoons.
Data showed that the search for “spittoon” on the 1688.com platform increased by 3,648 percent in the last 7 days, and GMV increased by 153 percent in the last two weeks.
Meng said that when a popular product is sold on Amazon, or eBay, it is common practice to see a lot of copycat sales. 80 percent of the goods sold on e-commerce platforms are taken from 1688.com, where you can find basically anything.
“Suddenly enamel spittoons became in fashion and, in a week, it lost its popularity before we had time to produce new products. The 300 items in the warehouse were cleared out right after it became a hot trend,” Meng said.
An operator of Wuyang Technology, a company that designs and operates cross-border e-commerce websites, surnamed Xiao, told the Global Times on Friday that profits from domestic and international orders are about the same.
“Take a suit for kid, for example, if it is sold for 100 yuan on Taobao, it may cost 180 yuan to sell abroad. The main cost of cross-border e-commerce comes from four parts: marketing costs account for 20-30 percent of total costs; as for logistics costs, domestic freight may account for 5 percent, but the cost of shipping abroad will increase it to 20-30 percent; production costs account for 20-30 percent; and the profit for domestic and international sales would be about 20 yuan,” said Xiao.
Xiao added that labor-intensive products, like clothing, have less profit than technology-based products. The spittoon does not bring in much profit normally despite its sudden popularity.
Machinery, home gardening products, consumer electronics, beauty care and clothing items are the five industries with the largest turnover on Alibaba’s international platform, according to a report released by Alibaba.