People take photos of the flower decorations at the entrance of the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, Nov 4, 2022. (ZHANG WEI / CHINA DAILY)

At the first China International Import Expo in November 2018, Nannini, an Italian eyewear brand, introduced its "transformer glasses" that can bend, flex, and even fold down into a tiny size to be stored anywhere, and made them a star exhibit.

Now, the product attracts lots of online searches in the eyewear category at online stores and is sold across the country at numerous offline shops as well.

Hu Yajun, Nannini's general manager in charge of the Chinese market, said the boost to the brand from the CIIE was unexpected. Hu said in the few months after the exhibition, "presbyopic glasses that can dance" became a hot search term on the internet, and the consumer traffic to Nannini's Tmall flagship store increased rapidly.

"Dealers from brick-and-mortar stores also frequently called for consultation and cooperation. Within one year after the first CIIE, sales of Nannini's presbyopic glasses surged at least eight times compared with a year before," Hu said.

"The CIIE as a platform has undoubtedly helped Nannini raise its brand influence in the Chinese market, and sales have been continuously growing in the past few years."

According to Hu, sales of Nannini glasses reached over 20 million yuan ($2.75 million) last year despite the COVID-19 challenge. At present, the Chinese market accounts for 60 percent of the brand's global sales.

In terms of all-channel sales, the brand sells an average of over 300 pairs per day. Product categories increased from 40 in 2018 to over 2,000 this year, Hu said.

Zhang Tong, a sales executive at an eyewear store in Changping district, Beijing, said a growing number of consumers have been seeking Nannini presbyopic glasses over the past few years. "Many of them heard about the glasses through news reports about the CIIE and asked for the brand's products at the store. They like the products' characteristics such as flexibility and foldable style, which make them easy to carry and unlikely to break."

"Despite COVID-19, Chinese consumers still have strong purchasing power, and restricted tourism made them turn to imported items sold online and offline. Nannini is very optimistic about the Chinese market. Going forward, we will launch more customized products and continue to participate in exhibitions in China to get a better understanding of consumer preferences and promote our products," Hu said.

Many imported products were once exhibits at the CIIE and have now become trending goods on shopping channels. In the past four years, more and more Chinese consumers began to buy products of overseas brands without having to travel abroad, thanks to the CIIE, experts said.

Over the past few years, a large number of high-quality products and services from overseas have also entered the Chinese market, including rural areas and online stores, attracting numerous consumers, they said.

Among such goods and commodities are golden pineapples from Panama, milk from New Zealand, oranges from Egypt, toiletries from Japan and home appliances from Italy.

Zhou Mi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing, said the CIIE helps introduce the latest goods and services from overseas to China, provides more choices for Chinese consumers and is conducive to expanding imports.

"Moreover, the platform provides more accurate information on Chinese consumers' preferences through communication among organizations, companies and the government, which helps foreign brands manage expectations and better seize market opportunities," Zhou said.