Smog mask sales plummet in China after air quality improvement

Updated 2018-01-04 09:30:21 Global Times

Anti-smog products pile up unsold in warehouses

Sales of smog masks and air filters have reportedly plummeted in China this winter in an apparent response to improving air quality.

"We received four or five large orders from companies in 2016, each about 1,000 masks, but this year we only had one order, asking for 100 masks," an employee from a Tongrentang pharmacy in Beijing's Dongcheng district told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Retail purchases also fell from 100 a month in the winter of 2016 to 20 to 30 in 2017, according to the employee.

"We bought a high-power air filter and asked friends to bring dozens of smog masks from abroad in winter 2016. The fog was unacceptable," Ren Aimin, a Beijing resident in Chaoyang district, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"The machine was used only once this winter up till now," said Ren.

E-commerce giant sold 15 million masks in five days in December 2016, a 380 percent rise compared to 2015. Some 110,000 air filters sold out on the same platform during the same period, an increase of 210 percent. Sales of air quality gauges rose 105 percent, China News Service (CNS) reported.

There are few promotions for air filters or smog-related items on or Taobao, Alibaba's e-commerce platforms, the Global Times reporter found.

Some dealers that stored up masks this summer now have them piled up in warehouses, Cheng Xiqing, marketing director of a company in Guangzhou, capital city of South China's Guangdong Province, told CNS.

A typical mask dealer has an inventory worth about 20 million yuan (.07 million), Cheng said. Some cut prices 20 percent below cost to cash out, but had no takers.

In the first 11 months of 2017, 338 Chinese cities saw a combined 20.4-percent reduction in PM-10, compared to that in 2013.

Air quality regulators monitor for particulate matter that measures 10 micrometers or smaller, known as PM-10, and 2.5 micrometers or smaller, known as PM-2.5.

The improved air quality in winter 2017 created other worries.

"As a student, I really miss the days our school suspended classes for heavy smog," wrote one internet user.

After experiencing a less smoggy 2017, Chinese internet users asked for "more blue skies" and even a "blue sky every day" in their New Year's wishes for 2018, Global Times found on their microblogs.

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