Lockdown loneliness boosts sales of sex dolls with thousands shipped to Europe

One unexpected effect of the coronavirus pandemic spreading to Europe has been a surge in sex doll orders from China, an exporter has revealed.

A factory in Shenzhen, in South China’s Guangdong Province, is producing 4,000 of the “hyper realistic” sex dolls every month, with eight out of ten of them being exported to Europe.

Yiwu Yansheng E-Commerce Co Ltd sells its love dolls under the brand “Yannova” at prices ranging from 1,000 CNY (£112) to over 20,000 CNY (£2,250) for voice-enabled models.

Most orders are made through Alibaba’s e-commerce platform AliExpress, which reaches more than 200 countries around the world.



Commercial data from AliExpress shows a 50% increase in sex toy sales since the coronavirus outbreak began, and the demand for sex dolls in particular has doubled, according to a report on Shanghai-based news website The Paper.

Yan Sixue, Yiwu Yansheng’s CEO, said that exports to Spain, Italy and Germany have spiked during the pandemic.

When Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte put the country on full lockdown in March, orders from Italy increased by 500% compared to the same time last year, according to The Paper’s report.



Lockdown loneliness boosts sales of sex dolls with thousands shipped to Europe

But Chen Qing, manager of the firm’s Shenzhen manufacturing plant, said demand for the company’s products had been strongest in Germany during the pandemic, a phenomenon Chinese state media outlet Global Times puts down to loneliness and strict social distancing measures.

Mr Chen told The Paper: “We manufacture about 3,000 to 4,000 dolls a month, the majority of which we export to Europe, the US, Japan, etc.

“Last year, exports accounted for 90% of all orders. This year, due to increased domestic demand, exports stand at about 80%.”



Lockdown loneliness boosts sales of sex dolls with thousands shipped to Europe

“Orders from Germany have increased the most,” he added.

“The only impact this pandemic has had on us has come in the form of high shipping costs.

“Many regular shipping routes are no longer available, so we’ve turned to sea freight.”



Lockdown loneliness boosts sales of sex dolls with thousands shipped to Europe

Mr Chen insists not all of the dolls’ purposes are for sex. Some clients buy dolls to keep them company, while others put the lifelike figurines on display in their homes, he noted.

CEO Mr Yan commented: “For most people, their impressions of adult dolls don’t go beyond blow-up dolls.

“In actual fact, the materials used have already evolved many times over the years.”



Lockdown loneliness boosts sales of sex dolls with thousands shipped to Europe

A typical 1.65-metre (5ft 4in) doll – made with an alloy skeleton and rubber shell – weighs roughly 35kg, Mr Yan said.

The company offers more than 160 different faces and body types to choose from, with the dolls’ bodies made using moulds of real models.

Brand manager, Fang Jie, revealed to The Paper: “Our main customers are men between the ages of 30 and 35 who are middle-to high-income white-collar workers.”



Lockdown loneliness boosts sales of sex dolls with thousands shipped to Europe

Customer surveys have shown that buyers are hoping for a more sophisticated way to interact with sex dolls beyond their basic voice functions, Mr Fang said.

The firm’s next step is to develop dolls with AI capabilities, he added.

Despite two especially strong quarters for exports, factory manager Mr Chen said the company was still looking to fulfil its potential in the Chinese market.



Lockdown loneliness boosts sales of sex dolls with thousands shipped to Europe

There continues to be domestic demand driven by the country’s historical gender imbalance.

The preference for boys over girls is estimated to have left China with more than 30 million single men.

Mr Chen said the factory is in constant daily discussions to supply so-called pop-up sex doll experience brothels in major cities, including Shanghai.

China’s adult product market will be worth 143 billion Yuan (£16 billion) by the end of 2020, according to a forecast made by Shenzhen-based market analysts iiMedia Research Group this month.

The industry more than doubled between 2016 and 2018, growing from 44 billion Yuan (£4.9 billion) to 118 billion Yuan (£13 billion), the report said.

In April, an analyst estimated that made-in-China adult products already accounted for 70% of the global market.

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