Luxury Packaging Gets Second Life on China’s Resale Platforms

Update published May 17, 2022

Beijing Business Daily reported that many citizens are trading shopping bags from the likes of Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, and Burberry on the second-hand e-commerce platform XianYu. There you can purchase a large-size Hermès one selling for $117 (800 RMB) while a Patek Philippe leather version (plus international postage) exceeds even that: on sale for a whopping $147 (1000 RMB). 

Shanghai’s doors were covered in glamorous paper shopping bags as citizens used them to hold their antigen tests during lockdown. As such, they became powerful symbols of wealth and taste even at a time of despair. Now their popularity has surged in the resale market, too — and for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, international shoppers, or Daigou, often exclude official packaging when supplying purchases. Another reason is an uptick in the DIY and personalization trend popular among younger shoppers. Finally, luxury packaging increases the value of goods in the secondhand market, especially for hard luxury. The latter is specifically important for high-end watches where accompanying wrapping can make or break a sale. 

Published April 18, 2022

What Happened: As COVID-19 concerns persist, Shanghai’s 25 million residents remain locked down. Citizens cannot leave their homes and many must rely on the government or on private delivery drivers to supply food and basic necessities. The restrictions have been in place for more than 21 days, and frustrations are running high.

Although the situation is far from good, it hasn’t stopped fashion enthusiasts from showing off during this challenging time. Citizens are putting their at-home antigen tests in designer shopping bags and hanging them on their front doors for health workers to collect. As such, countless city’s doors are covered in glamorous paper shopping bags from the likes of Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, and Burberry. Related videos on Douyin have more than 150,000 likes and 20,000 comments. Many netizens joked that in many cases the shopping bags are more expensive than the doors themselves.  

Shanghai residents hang luxury paper bags on their door to hold their at-home antigen tests. Photo: Jing Daily

The Jing Take: Shanghai’s current pandemic situation stands in direct opposition to the rest of the world, which has effectively moved on from lockdowns. Still, despite the difficulties, it shows the world the role of luxury in the face of hardships. Despite being stuck at home, these iconic shopping bags are a crucial signifier for fashionistas to express their personal sense of taste and status.

This surprising trend shows the power of packaging, which is often underestimated, and is free, unexpected advertising for the luxury brands involved. In September 2021, Prada cooperated with Wuzhong Market in Shanghai to launch its Fall 2021 campaign “Feels Like Prada,” wrapping vegetables and fruit in patterned paper. Images of the wrapping paper went viral, as KOLs shared posts on Xiaohongshu; the hashtag #feelprada(感觉Prada) currently has 376,000 views on the platform. 

Prada’s takeover of a Shanghai vegetable market went viral last September. Photo: Screenshots, Xiaohongshu

Luxury shopping bags have already evolved into a budding business. Younger consumers enjoy purchasing them online and sharing them in their WeChat Moments or using them as they go out and about. For example, the Italian luxury brand, Bottega Veneta, is sought after by fashion fanatics for what is considered its “outstanding” shopping bag, with images popping up on Xiaohongshu and Weibo. Last year, Gucci collaborated with the Japanese manga character Doraemon for a new capsule that included paper bags with images of Doraemon. These were hot commodities trending on Xianyu, a popular second-hand e-commerce platform in China. 

But Shanghai’s lockdown will end and luxury consumers will flock back to the malls, boutiques, and brick-and-mortar stores to make their purchases. And with each purchase, the brand has another soft power opportunity to communicate not only with potential first-time buyers, but also with the world at large, signaling its brand message via a well-designed and constructed shopping bag — a rather inexpensive way to communicate so much meaning for both the brand and the person sporting the bag. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.