BEIJING, July 8 (Xinhaunet) -- Sex toys and products are just a click away in China as the country's 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) industry moves to expand through online outlets.
So far, it is estimated that sales through online shops account for only about 10 percent of the turnover. Lin Degang, a council member of the China Sexology Association, said the number of online stores is increasing at a rate of about 60 percent a year.
Lin, who also owns retail and online sex shops, said that the percentage of online outlets is bound to increase over the next few years.
"Many Chinese want to buy sex toys but cringe at the thought of entering sex shops," said Li Yinhe, a sociologist and sexologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Online sex-toy shopping can avoid such problems since consumers don't have to reveal their real names."
Taobao.com, China's largest online shopping destination with 170 million registered users and part of the Alibaba Group of online-based businesses, has about 4,500 sex shops registered, compared with a few hundred when it was established in 2003.
Tao Ran, the public relations manager of taobao.com, said it recorded about 60 million yuan in transactions of adult products in June, with condoms, sex toys and skimpy lingerie proving very popular, and with the numbers still going up.
"Since the sex toy market has grown into a highly profitable industry, more and more shops are registering online," said Tao.
And the profit margins are huge. "Sex toys, especially blow-up dolls which cost a store 10,000 yuan, can sell for 40,000 yuan," Tao said.
Condoms account for more than 50 percent of the online sales, with Durex and Okamoto the top brands, a report released by taobao.com said.
Julian Cui, a 27-year-old Chinese consumer, said he found sex toys online more risqu than those in a retail store.
"Blow-up dolls, dildos, dancing eggs and rare toys can all be found online," said Cui. "With so many options and a rather low price, who wants to go to a store?"
Wang, a sex-shop owner on taobao.com, is finding that her business is been growing rapidly.
"I can sell at least 300 items of sexual lingerie a day, shipping them all over China, with a total revenue of 6,000 yuan, but things were not so good at the beginning," said Wang who has only two years' experience in running a sex shop. "The adult products market is really good now."
Though buying online has advantages over shopping in a sex store, some shoppers still prefer the real thing.
"I never shop online, especially for something like adult toys, because I don't think all the products would pass quality control," said a consumer at a sex shop in Sanlitun, one of Beijing's busiest areas.
Li Yinhe said that thousands of online shops have sprung up since 2000 when the first sex shop appeared online, which is very different from the past when sex used to be a taboo in Chinese culture.
"The Chinese are now more open-minded in using adult products because of the development of society, and it is a healthy way to get satisfied sexually," Li said.
- MOC issues online shopping guideline 2010-07-01