Taobao isn’t that cheap anymore. This shouldn’t surprise you.
Taobao was super cheap
Most people caught on to the fact that Taobao was cheap around 2015 to 2017.
But things have changed. They’re not that cheap now.
Warning signs that Chinese manufacturers are going upmarket
The warning signs are there that China has been moving up the value chain. They’ve been there for some time, especially rising labour costs.
China is no longer the world’s low cost manufacturer. Labour costs are rising (e.g. Japanese concerns). Chinese companies are even turning into MNCs / Trans-National Companies and setting up shop in other countries like Bangladesh.
Taobao also opened a physical store at Funan. What the heck?! In a retail environment where most shops find it hard to survive, we’ve a Chinese ecommerce platform that “offer(s) a wide range of products available from Taobao that are specially curated for Singapore shoppers, covering categories such as furniture, household items, textiles and fashion.”
Anecdotal evidence from our Taobao purchases
Not every item would be more expensive. Some might be cheaper, such as during sales periods. But in general prices have been rising for some items we buy.
“Gamer” Mouse (+72%)
We used to buy it for RMB 13.90 for the enhanced version of a “gamer” mouse (inverted commas because it’s probably lacking in the quality of an actual gamer mouse). This wasn’t a special sale price. Back then it was really very cheap, SGD 3 for a mouse is cheap anywhere. SGD 3 for a gamer mouse is insane.
When we tried to buy it again this month, it jumped to RMB 23.80 (72% increase). Even the basic version is RMB 15.10 – higher price for a lousier product.
Neti Pot (+35%)
For some reason Shopee or Qoo10 can be cheaper. A cheap neti pot on Shopee sells for SGD 2.66 without shipping.
A cheap Taobao seller sells for more, i.e. SGD 3.60, without the shipping cost.
The price of nice, thick hangers similar to those Ikea used to sell increased a little. It was RMB 57 for a pack of 50 hangers.
It’s now RMB 59 for a pack of 50 hangers. A small increase that you won’t notice unless you look closely.
USB Type C Cable (+14%)
Although sale prices can vary, we used to buy the USB type C cables at RMB 13.90 for 3.
It fluctuates, typically upwards, and is now RMB 15.90 even on promotion.
Bathroom Tap (+18%)
Our bathroom tap increased in price, from RMB 288 to RMB 330 (increased 18%).
Clothes Hook (+21%)
Our clothes hook increased in price from RMB 114 to RMB 138 (increased 21%). That said, this might be due to differences in promotional prices, although we doubt it, because 女王价 weren’t fantastic.
Animal Stool (-10%)
Some items do drop in prices. For instance, the cow and elephant stools we bought dropped from RMB 99 to RMB 89, because they added more colours and reduced the prices for the original colours.
Conclusion – you can still buy, but don’t assume Taobao prices are always cheap or constant
The aim of this post was to show that Taobao prices are not always cheap, they’re not always constant. They can go up.
Do your homework and make sure you don’t buy something that’s not that cheap. Might as well go to the 五金店 / hardware store / Ikea and buy whatever you need at a cheaper price.
Caveat: this is not a rigorous scientific study, we cherry picked the examples above. Many shops have kept their prices or lowered those. Like the prices for the animal stools.