(Bloomberg) -- The energy crisis engulfing Europe is making consumers turn to a solution thousands of miles away: electric blankets from China.
Export data points to a surge that’s buoyed the fortunes of companies like Shenzhen-based UTK Technology Ltd., a producer and seller of the blankets on e-commerce website Alibaba, which confirms demand has reached an unprecedented level this month.
Daily inquiries from European buyers have increased fivefold, and most people request urgent shipping, according to Crane Jin, UTK’s general manager. The company expects to deliver over 10,000 blankets to the continent in the next month.
“We have been working overtime a lot lately,” she said.
Europe is bracing for a difficult winter as soaring natural gas prices and a supply crunch driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine prompt governments to draw up energy rationing plans. Households, already battered by surging inflation, are looking for savings as they face eye-watering utility bill hikes.
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Electric blankets, embedded with thin electric wires that disperse heat once plugged in, cost less than a third to operate compared to some heaters, according to estimates from EnergyAustralia. That’s largely because they’re intended to warm the user up close rather than heat an entire room.
UK retailers confirm the trend. The department store chain John Lewis Partnership Plc says sales of electric blankets are up 67% from a year earlier, and online searches for the products have climbed almost 470%. And the blankets rank among Amazon.com Inc.’s best-selling home and kitchen products in the UK.
Interest began to build in the past months, perhaps as retailers started stocking up. Customs data published by the China Household Electrical Appliances Association show that total electric-blanket exports to Europe hit $33.4 million from January through July, which is almost double the whole of last year.
The demand has buoyed shares of Chengdu Rainbow Appliance Group, a maker of the blankets based in China’s Sichuan province. The firm said last Friday in an exchange filing that while it has received overseas export interest, the small sums involved and its domestic focus means the trend will not substantially affect income levels. That didn’t deter investors: the stock jumped by the daily limit of 10% on Monday to close at its highest price since April 2021.
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