Freezer sales surge amid COVID-19 outbreaks
Refrigerators and freezers have gained traction among Chinese consumers and have seen robust growth in sales, as people spend more time at home and purchase groceries in bulk due to a resurgence in domestic COVID-19 cases, industry experts said.
Statistics from All View Cloud, a Beijing-based consultancy specializing in home appliances, showed that online sales via freezers increased 46.6 percent year-on-year from March 28 to April 24, while sales of offline channels such as brick-and-mortar stores rose 28.3 percent on a yearly basis.
During this period, sales of freezers in Shanghai and Jilin province surged 220.4 percent and 124.1 percent year-on-year, respectively, amid the local lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, according to the consultancy.
"Consumers have shown surging demand for fresh foods including vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and frozen products when they are confined indoors and switch to online shopping due to the pandemic, which has given a big boost to sales of cold storage products," said Wang Lei, senior research manager of the home appliances business unit at AVC.
As a storage supplement to refrigerators, freezers have been favored by consumers given their small size and cost-effective features, Wang said, adding that since March, the sporadic resurgence of COVID-19 in some parts of the country has accelerated the upgrading and replacement of refrigerators and freezers.
Consumers' purchasing demand are likely to be unleashed, buoyed by the country's supportive policies such as tax and fee reduction, sending out consumption coupons, and promoting spending on home appliances in rural areas, Wang added.
Sales of refrigerators are expected to increase 3.8 percent year-on-year during the April-June period compared with the previous year, and the related revenue will go up by 6 percent year-on-year, according to AVC.
In addition, sales of refrigerators stood at 31.88 million units in 2021, down 2.1 percent on a yearly basis, while related revenue stood at 97.1 billion yuan ($15.2 billion), an increase of 7.9 percent year-on-year, said the consultancy. The freezer market raked in 12.3 billion yuan in total revenue last year, up 11.2 percent year-on-year, with sales climbing 8 percent to 9.22 million units.
The domestic home appliances market is expected to witness a recovery of growth in 2022, as the pandemic increasingly comes under better control along with the government's vigorous measures to spur consumption, experts said.
Noting that consumers are keen on buying freezers with larger storage space, Wang Xiaocheng, general manager of the refrigerator and washing machine sales unit at Chinese home appliances manufacturer Meiling, said enterprises should grasp this new wave of consumer demands and roll out more innovative freezer products.
"The surge in sales of refrigerators in some regions amid the pandemic will not last long, but people are pursuing healthier lifestyles and attaching huge importance to food safety, which will bring about new opportunities for bolstering the development of the refrigerator and freezer industry," said Han Dong, who is in charge of the sales of refrigerators and freezers in the domestic market at Ronshen, another home appliances maker.
In the long run, Chinese consumers' demands for freezers will continue to rise, Han said, adding an increasing number of people are likely to choose freezers as the second cold storage equipment for their families.
At present, growth in the domestic home appliances segment is slowing. Data from AVC showed China's home appliances sector in 2021 reached 760.3 billion yuan, up 3.6 percent year-on-year. However, this figure represented a drop of 7.4 percent compared with 2019.
This year's Government Work Report stated China will continue to encourage local governments to promote spending on green and smart home appliances in rural areas to replace old home appliances as part of a broader push to expand domestic demand and promote the sustained recovery of consumption.
Zhao Ping, deputy head of the Beijing-based Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said the purchase of home appliances has become an important driving force in unleashing the potential of the domestic consumption market and stabilizing economic growth, along with the consumption upgrade.
Zhao noted the replacement of old home appliances with new ones will expand sales for home appliances makers, and promote the development of related industries, such as the recycling, dismantling and reuse of home appliances.
Liu Buchen, an independent researcher in the home appliances sector, said China's household appliance enterprises should abandon the low-quality and low-price competition strategy and make continuous innovations in the fields of technology, quality and design.