On China’s bustling retail livestreams, which captivate millions of viewers, an increasingly diverse range of products are being sold. These range from the usual assortment of shoes, cosmetics, and baby products to the more unexpected – massive shipments of sulphurous coal.
China’s coal inventories, both at its ports and power plants, have swelled to unprecedented levels in recent weeks. A sluggish economy has diminished demand from utilities and steel mills, reducing the need for abundant, low-cost imported fuel. In response to this trend, some coal miners have devised innovative methods of reaching out to their customers.
In a recent livestream hosted by Huaze Coal Industry, viewers were presented with an unconventional sight. A young woman, dressed in a blue hardhat and a mining boilersuit, held up a lump of coal. Superimposed against a backdrop of a warehouse, she promoted powdered coal boasting an energy content of 5,500 kcal. This product was offered directly from a mine in Shanxi province, priced between 570-600 yuan (approximately US$79.55-US$83.73) per metric ton.
The minimum shipment size, ranging from 30 to 35 tonnes and transported via train, signals that the target market for these livestreams is wholesale industrial buyers. In comparison, domestic thermal 5,500 kcal coal was being traded at around 800 yuan (US$111.64) per tonne as of last week, according to trading sources.
Although hard commodity wholesaling is not a completely new phenomenon on China’s streaming platforms, the trend appears to be escalating. Three of the most active channels on Douyin identified by Reuters – Huaze Coal, Guohai Daily Coal Price, and Jixing Coal – have collectively conducted 164 such online events so far this quarter. This number is a noticeable increase from the 120 events last quarter and 107 events in the fourth quarter of 2022.
The rise in the number of these online wholesaling events indicates that livestreams are rapidly becoming a vital platform for reaching out to large-scale industrial buyers, effectively revolutionizing the landscape of commodity trading in China.
Based on reporting from The Star