Dragon-themed product sales surge

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A staff member shows commemorative coins and banknotes in celebration of the year 2024 at a branch of China Construction Bank (CCB) in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 9, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

Though the Chinese Year of the Dragon will kick in about a month later, the consumer frenzy around products characterized by the auspicious mythical creature — such as dragon-shaped gold jewelry and gold phone decals adorned with dragon-year motifs — is already palpable.

Data from e-commerce platform Taobao show that searches for dragon-related products have surged by 640-fold from Dec 27 to Jan 2. Among these, gold jewelry in the shape of dragons saw a 500-fold increase in search volume.

"Dragons are considered symbols of authority and honor in Chinese culture, and gold, which serves as both jewelry and a safe-haven asset, is particularly welcomed as the Spring Festival approaches. Buyers seeking dragon-shaped gold jewelry are hoping for good luck in the new year," said Xie Zhihui, deputy head of e-commerce sales at Chow Tai Seng, a Shenzhen Stock Exchange-listed gold brand.

Chow Tai Seng's e-commerce branch experienced a significant sales surge for dragon-themed gold jewelry in November, exceeding 10 million yuan ($1.4 million), nearly doubling from the previous month's sales.

Sales continued to grow in December, and reached around 5 million yuan in the first week of 2024.

The brand's newly launched dragon-shaped pendants adorned with jellylike enamel became a bestseller, with the red enamel variants generating over 1 million yuan in December.

Contrary to the perception that gold is somewhat old-fashioned and appeals mainly to older residents, Xie said the company's statistics show that the majority of buyers are youngsters born in the 2000s.

The sales boom of dragon-themed gold jewelry is expected to last throughout the year with total volume topping the list of other animal-themed items, she said.

Beyond dragon-themed gold jewelry, the potential of traditional products has given rise to new businesses, said Hong Yong, deputy researcher at the e-commerce branch of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

"The relatively higher sales of dragon-themed products, compared to those characterized by animals symbolizing other Chinese years, may be linked to the reverence for dragons in Chinese culture. To tap into the business potential of traditional culture and capitalize on the heritage, companies need to innovate on product design, adopt digital marketing and customize services," Hong said.

Dragon-themed Chinese "good luck bags" used as car ornaments, handmade embroidery and several other products derived from traditional culture have all experienced a sales boom recently.

The shopping craze over dragon-themed products has also sparked enthusiasm among collectors.

Data from the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, showed that dragon banknotes have all been booked out as of Jan 4 across 32 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, totaling 99.98 million pieces.

Globally renowned brands are also capitalizing on the traditional culture.

Shu Uemura has unleashed a limited edition lipstick, Fila has launched embroidered dragon hoodies, and Shanghai Disney Resort has produced dragon plush toys.

Su Anke, founder of marketing company Shenzhen Yiben Zhengjing Culture and Creativity Co Ltd, said many brands have rushed to speed up product development to tap the dragon-themed product buying spree.

Su's company is currently responsible for the development of derivative products of the short-video series Dragon Family, a comedy about the daily life of a dragon father, human mother and half-dragon son that has garnered about 30 million fans across all platforms.

Dragon Family-themed products are now available in more than 3,000 offline stores across the country, with its Taobao store officially launched in January.

"Such a quick product launch is faster than the average in the IP derivative development industry. The goal is to fully leverage the timing to quickly make more products known and accepted by consumers," he said.

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