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Chinese Shoppers Can Go Out Again. Online Buys Show They Won’t

  • E-commerce searches for lunch boxes, skincare products surge
  • Data points to uneven consumer recovery as restrictions ease
People visit a shopping mall in Xiangyang City, Hubei Province, March 26.
People visit a shopping mall in Xiangyang City, Hubei Province, March 26.Photographer: Xie Jianfei/Xinhua via Getty Images

China’s consumers are shopping online again. But their purchases signal they plan to stay indoors for the foreseeable future, dashing hopes for a spending recovery as the nation contemplates its post-virus world.

Lunch boxes saw 120 times more searches in the last 30 days as the virus pushes people to prepare their own food even after returning to the office, according to March 26 data from Index.1688, which collects information from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s shopping sites.