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Gold medalist Yang Qian celebrates on the podium in Tokyo, July 24, 2021. [Photo/IC]
Traders in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, China's largest small commodities distribution center, had long prepared to sell small items related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Their sales hopes were boosted when Yang Qian, the first Chinese gold medalist at the Games, became a big online hit after her victory in the women's 10-meter air rifle competition on July 24, the first day of competition.
When Yang, 21, a student athlete from Tsinghua University, celebrated her triumph on the podium, she enjoyed the moment by forming a heart shape with her hands.
Yang was wearing a hairpin with a yellow duck design, and following her triumph, such hairpins were in hot demand among large numbers of buyers.
Traders in Yiwu, seeing debate about Yang's hairpin on social media platforms, lost no time manufacturing items in similar styles to cash in on this business opportunity.
In the week after July 24, the average daily online search volume for "yellow duck hairpins" soared by more than 4,000 percent year-on-year, according to Taobao, Alibaba Group's e-commerce platform.
In less than a month, one retailer on Taobao sold nearly 100,000 of the hairpins. The trader also developed 22 styles and colors of hairpins similar to that worn by Yang. Prices for the items ranged from 3 yuan to 10 yuan (46 cents to $1.55).
The hairpins have also been sought by customers overseas. Tmall, another Alibaba Group e-commerce platform, said that in July, more than 10,000 yellow duck hairpins were ready to complete safety checks at Tmall's warehouse in Shanghai for delivery to customers in Tokyo.
Lou Lei, executive director of consultancy Frost & Sullivan China, said: "Chinese athletes achieved strong results in different competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In the past few years, Chinese consumers have shown increased confidence and recognition of domestic products and brands.
"Hot topics can easily generate discussion and go viral due to the increasing popularity of social media platforms and short-video platforms among Chinese consumers," Lou said.
Early last month, of the items worn by gold medalists during the Tokyo Olympics, the yellow duck hairpin was the most popular among online buyers, according to Taobao.
Other items in high demand include necklaces similar to that worn by table tennis player Chen Meng during competition, an essential balm used at Tokyo 2020 by weightlifter Hou Zhihui, and mobile phone cases like the one owned by basketball player Yang Shuyu.
In addition to small items, others related to the Tokyo Olympics are selling online.
Damoson, an online store that sells menswear on Tmall, launched a new black-and-white T-shirt during the Games with "Go China "printed in Chinese characters on the front. The store said it noticed the potential business opportunities resulting from the Games and decided to launch the T-shirt immediately to attract more customers.
In messages posted online, buyers said they wanted to pay tribute to athletes' hard work and achievements.
However, the popularity of small items related to the Olympics is nothing new.
During the London Olympics in 2012, and at the Rio de Janeiro Games four years later, online sales surged for items similar to those worn by athletes.
Lou said, "The popularity of some topics related to the Olympic Games is unlikely to last long online, as users tend to constantly find new issues to discuss. After the Tokyo Games, there is expected to be less discussion about some relatively niche sports.
"However, sports such as running, basketball and soccer, which are widely popular among the public, are always likely to feature in discussions."