May 28, 2022

Asia’s biggest flower market turns influencers into stars

KUNMING, China: Boxes of roses, lilies and carnations pile up as influencer Caicai talks into her smartphone from a tiny studio in Asia’s largest flower market, with thousands of customers waiting with looking forward to his opinion on the best deals.
E-commerce is big business in China, and influencers and livestreamers have made their fortunes presenting products for luxury brands and cosmetics companies.
Today, the country’s horticulture industry, worth an estimated 160 billion yuan ($ 25.1 billion), is leaping into action. And where people used to visit markets and florists themselves, they are increasingly buying flowers through their smartphones.
Online commerce now represents more than half of the sector’s turnover.
“Five bouquets, only 39.8 yuan ($ 6.25) for those who order right away,” said the 23-year-old.
“When you’ve been selling something for a long time, words come naturally,” she told AFP.
However, the gains can be unreliable.
“Flower sales vary during busy and off-peak seasons, so a live streamer’s daily income varies a lot. All I can say is that the more you work, the luckier you will be,” explains- she, as her colleagues beside her put the bouquets into boxes ready to be shipped.
Demand for cut flowers has skyrocketed in China with the rise in living standards, with the southern province of Yunnan being the epicenter of this boom thanks to its year-round mild climate.
The provincial capital Kunming has the largest flower market in Asia, the second in the world after Aalsmeer in the Netherlands.
Every day at 3 p.m., a rose auction starts in a huge room where more than 600 buyers share the offer of the day behind their screens.
“Yunnan accounts for about 80% of flower production in China and 70-80% of flowers for sale go through our auction room,” says Zhang Tao, head of market logistics – a crucial role when goods are so perishable.
“This averages over four million flowers sold each day. For Chinese Valentine’s Day, we sold 9.3 million per day.”
They are shipped across China within 48 hours.
On the retail side of the market, another influencer, Bi Xixi, showcases flowers and bouquets from stalls to sell to her own online followers.
Wearing a traditional Chinese dress known as hanfu, moving from booth to booth with her phone on the end of a cane, the 32-year-old has racked up around 60,000 subscribers.
She picks up flowers, shows them on her screen as followers rush to place their orders.
Bi Xixi began broadcasting live early last year, when China was crippled by the Covid pandemic. It was then that she realized that people were eager to see flowers online that they could no longer buy outside.
Now, on a good day, she says she manages to sell 150,000 yuan ($ 23,500) worth of flowers in three hours of live streaming.
She takes about ten percent commission and is optimistic about the future of the trade.
“People are enjoying rituals more and more. Flowers make them feel happy and young people are starting to like buying flowers, ”she says.
The market is still very far from saturation, believes Qian Chongjun, boss of Dounan Flower Corporation, one of the largest entities in the market.
“Buying flowers every week has become a habit in many families,” says Qian. “I think that one day they will become a basic need, like air and water.”