Netflix show 'Squid Game' brings windfall for online sellers in China where it's unavailable

Xinmei Shen, South China Morning Post

Posted at Oct 07 2021 01:11 PM

New Netflix series Squid Game has yet to be officially released in China, but factories in the country are already busy churning out related products for domestic and overseas shoppers to capitalise on the hit show.


Costumes inspired by the South Korean thriller have proliferated on e-commerce platforms around the world, with many manufactured in China.

On Coupang, one of the biggest shopping sites in South Korea, some of the top search results for the show’s products are listed by companies based in the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, as well as Anhui province, among others. Product pages are filled with inquiries from customers asking if sellers can deliver orders by Halloween.

Similar product offerings can also be found on Taobao, China’s biggest domestic shopping app, and on international wholesaler Alibaba.com. Both platforms are operated by Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post.


In the nine-episode dystopian drama, which debuted on September 17, hundreds of debt-laden contestants wearing identical green tracksuits face off with each other in a series of traditional children’s games. The winner gets a cash prize, while all losers are instantly killed by guards dressed in red jumpsuits and black face masks.

Anna Feng, an employee at a Hangzhou-based apparel manufacturer listed on Alibaba.com and a self-professed follower of Korean trends, said she suggested her company to start offering Squid Game gear after watching the show herself and noticing its skyrocketing popularity.

With the help of a factory located right on the outskirts of Hangzhou, it took the company, founded in 2011 and currently employing no more than 10 people, just two days to put Squid Game costumes on its shelf, according to Feng.


“The demand is huge,” said Feng, adding that most of the orders come from outside China, in countries including the US, Canada, Britain and South Korea. “The show is very popular.”


Another Chinese merchant cashing in on the mania said that it had sold more than 2,000 black masks in three days during the first week of the show’s debut, according to Chinese e-commerce industry publication Dianshang Zaixian. So far, the store has made more than 300,000 yuan (US$46,535) from the sale.


Squid Game has yet to secure an official release in China, where the US-based streaming service Netflix is not available. While no Chinese platforms have announced plans to license the show for domestic audiences, eager and resourceful viewers in the country have found unofficial ways to watch the series by scaling the Great Firewall or downloading pirated versions.


On Douban, China’s largest movie and book review platform, Squid Game has received a rating of 7.7 out of 10 from more than 229,800 users. It is currently ranked the third-most popular film and television show.


While Squid Game is on track to becoming a global phenomenon, Chinese merchants said they do not expect the popularity of their show-inspired products to last very long. The official Netflix online shop has just unveiled a collection of t-shirts featuring symbols and pictures from the show, although it does not offer costumes.
“I think the popularity will last for about two to three weeks and then slowly decline,” Feng said.

 

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