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Men dominate in China’s online auction boom

In China’s online auction boom, men are proving to be the predominant bidders.

An Alibaba report shows the top five cities for online auction action are Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, with the most popular categories being jade and jewellery, luxury goods, tea, wine and tonic drinks, ink paintings and seal carvings, as well as real estate.

Luxury watches, bags, accessories and designer clothes are the most sold items.

And while women dominate online shopping, the main online bidders are men between 26 and 35 years old.

Tibet leads the list with 90 per cent of its bidders being men, followed by 71 per cent in Guangdong province, 69 per cent in Jiangsu and Zhejiang province, 66 per cent in Shanghai and 64 per cent in Beijing.

Taking a broader look, more online auctions in a wider range of areas are attracting more participants, compared with traditional offline auctions that are more of a niche space with a limited number of bidders.

Alibaba says online auction platforms have given China’s rising wealthy class easier access to novel and interesting auctions, while the nouveau riche, in turn, have propelled the country’s online auction business grow at an amazing pace.

Specialist sites

Apart from auctioneers with their own online auctions, major e-commerce players such as Alibaba, JD and Suning have launched their own online auction businesses as well. There are also some auction verticals, such as ArtTact for artworks, Cheyipai for used cars) and for waste and old materials.

Alibaba’s Taobao has been leading the way in terms of auction sales. Data from the China Association of Auctioneers shows that Taobao’s auction platform represented more than half of the estimated RMB20 billion (US$2.9 billion) in the country’s total online auction sales in 2013, the latest figures available.

Online auctions may represent 30 per cent of China’s e-commerce in the next five years, Alibaba VP Sun Jungong told an online auction-themed summit last month.

Alibaba’s online auction business encompasses judicial sale, asset auctions, car and house auctions, treasure auctions and others. Taobao takes bids on everything from stakes in listed companies to sour debt, from yachts to real estate. The platform had a record high price for a single sale in China’s e-commerce arena last year when the assets of a yacht club went under the hammer for RMB2.5 billion.

Taobao and are among five online platforms authorised by the Supreme Court in November to provide judicial sale services online. The transaction volume of judicial auctions on Taobao topped RMB100 billion last year, representing nearly one-fifth of the country’s RMB519.23 billion total auction sales for the year. In contrast, British auction house Christie’s sold £4 billion (about RMB32 billion) of art and collectibles last year.

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