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Chinese Consumer Sentiment Perks Up, Bolsters Economic Recovery
  ·  2020-09-11  ·   Source: NO.38 SEPTEMBER 17, 2020
People watch a film in a cinema in Wuhan, Hubei Province in central China, on July 20 (XINHUA)

As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tapers off in China and pent-up consumption demand gradually unleashes, economic recovery in the second half of the year will gain more momentum.

China's national Consumer Confidence Index led 24 countries surveyed including the U.S., India and Brazil in August by rebounding to 72.9 points, becoming the only economy to show a gain from January, the world's leading market research company Ipsos reported recently.

The Consumer Confidence Index, which reflects customers' outlook of economic situations, income level and purchasing sentiment, is a leading indicator for predicting economic trends and consumption tendency.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics echoed the trends. China's retail sales of consumer goods rose by 0.85 percent month on month in July, a moderate increase from 0.83 percent in June, maintaining a six-month streak of expansion after a contraction of 10.91 percent in January.

After suffering a blow from COVID-19, which temporarily shuttered many stores, restaurants and movie theaters, Chinese consumers are back into a spending spree.

As of the morning of September 7, epic war film The Eight Hundred continued to smash records, with the total box office hitting a new high of 2.4 billion yuan ($350 million). It is the first movie to make over 1 billion yuan ($146 million) in the world's second-largest box-office market since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Shake Shack, a New York burger brand, opened its first restaurant in Beijing in August. Despite downpours in the city on the opening day of the store, food lovers queued up and waited for hours to take a bite of the popular burgers and snacks, and taste the cold beverages.

Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, said China is one of the most important markets for Shake Shack in the world, and Beijing, as China's capital and an international metropolis, represents the new frontier of consumption.

China's auto market, which was hit particularly hard by the virus, has been recovering. Total output reached 2.2 million in July, up 21.9 percent year on year, while sales hit 2.1 million, up 16.4 percent year on year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

The post-coronavirus retail industry will draw heavily from the online shopping trends already seen in China, analysts from consulting firm Bain said in a report released recently, adding that three Chinese e-commerce giants—Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo—now rank among the top 10 retailers worldwide.

Alibaba Group reported year-on-year revenue growth of 34 percent to 153.8 billion yuan ($22.4 billion) for the quarter that ended on June 30. The company's net profit attributable to shareholders was 47.59 billion yuan ($6.9 billion). The profit surge was mainly due to strong performances in online retailing and cloud computing.

"What's happening in China today is going to happen in other markets to a lesser or greater degree depending on the market," Kanaiya Parekh, expert partner at Bain, said in an interview with CNBC. "People need to be looking at China, especially with regards to the future of retail."

Buoyed by the recent boost in consumer sentiment, analysts believe that China's consumption will continue to rebound. Favorable factors such as continued government policy support, new promotion measures by the enterprises and increasing consumer confidence will pave the way for a stronger recovery in the second half.

The National Consumption Promotion Month, jointly organized by the Ministry of Commerce and the China Media Group, kicked off on September 9 and will continue for the entire month to further bolster market sentiment, boost consumer confidence and promote replenishment of consumption.

During the promotional campaign, over 10,000 key enterprises and major e-commerce platforms in large and medium-sized cities of 31 provincial-level regions across the country have hosted a series of promotion activities, integrating online and offline modes, goods and services marketing, as well as sectors including commodity, travel, culture and entertainment.

Qu Hongbin, chief China economist at HSBC, said in a research note that the key to reviving consumption lies in keeping employment stable and improving residents' income, which will also act as the main policy focus in the second half of the year.

This is an edited version of an article published by Xinhua News Agency

Copyedited by Madhusudan Chaubey

Comments to dengyaqing@bjreview.com

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