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Wedding dress firms unveil top figures

By Chen Limin  (China Daily)

14:06, July 30, 2012

A wedding dress shop in the Huqiu district of Suzhou city. Huqiu is the location of more than 1,200 wedding dressmakers and vendors, making it the country's leading wedding dress producing and business center. (Photo/China Daily)

Overseas sales boom as hard-pressed customers seek quality at good prices from online stores

After a good lie-in in the morning, Zhao Xiaogang, an online wedding dress seller, gets up in time for the busy part of the day.

E-mails from foreign customers usually soar in the afternoon. A short trip to wedding dressmakers may be needed to supplement the stock. Wedding dresses in the warehouse are awaiting packaging before being sent to express delivery companies that will eventually take them to Germany.

The 32-year-old Web entrepreneur has managed to sell wedding dresses to the European market while sitting at home in Suzhou, a major wedding dress production center in China.

There are 1,200 wedding dressmakers and vendors in the city, in East China's Jiangsu province, known for its silk and embroidery. It makes up about 60 percent of the total wedding dress output of the country, according to Jin Debao, vice-chairman of the industry association.

Brides-to-be can stroll around meandering streets between one wedding dress shop and another for a whole day to find an ideal match of quality and price. About 80 percent of Suzhou's wedding dresses go to Chinese customers, said Jin.

This, however, doesn't stop some from trying their hand in overseas markets, evidenced in notices advertising for workers to take foreign orders in the city's wedding dress manufacturing area.

Zhao, who started to sell wedding dresses online on eBay.com in 2010, is one of them.

"Chinese customers like to compare and haggle over prices and there are also a lot of vendors selling wedding dresses," he said. "So I tried to sell overseas and, since most of my peers target the United States and the United Kingdom, I chose another way by selling to Germany."

This was not a small challenge for him because he speaks neither a single word of English nor German and he learned about the Internet only four years ago.

"Every time I reply to customers' e-mails, I go to Google Translator, going sentence by sentence," he said. "But I cannot manage if there are direct phone calls from them."

There have been few calls from buyers, fortunately, and Zhao, together with his wife and brother-in-law, manages to make his life "much better" than in his previous job as a warehouse worker.

His online business earns a profit of 30,000 to 40,000 yuan ($4,708 to $6,277) a month on average by selling wedding dresses worth $80,000 to $90,000 in total.

In the house he rents, also his workplace, wedding dresses for sale are piled up, ready to meet daily demand. If there needs to be a tailor-made adjustment to a particular one, Zhao's suppliers can finish making it in just a few days, with everything related to wedding dress manufacturing in the neighborhood.

In Suzhou, there are 13 wedding dress vendors that record a monthly transaction volume through PayPal of more than $30,000, with the biggest seller's reaching nearly $970,000, according to figures from PayPal Inc, the online payment arm of online marketplace eBay Inc.

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