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Print Edition> Business
UPDATED: February 17, 2014 NO. 8 FEBRUARY 20, 2014
Domestic Market Has ‘Spring in Its Step’
Given that China's economy went through a bleak midwinter, high hopes have been placed on consumption
By Deng Yaqing

SPENDING SPREE: Tourists queue up to pay at a duty-free store in Sanya, south China's island province of Hainan, on February 7 (ZHANG YONGFENG)

The Chinese Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, has never been a time to tighten the belt. "My family spent roughly 6,000 yuan ($990) in purchases for the Spring Festival," said Lu Hao, a 27-year-old postgraduate. On his shopping list were home appliances, electronic products, liquor and health supplements.

Banquets also had a place in the budget of Lu's family. "Unlike previous years, we didn't prepare traditional food like steamed pork and chicken or fried fish ahead of the festival, for they are available in supermarket throughout the holiday," said Lu.

As the Chinese fully released their shopping desires during the Spring Festival holiday (January 31-February 6), the Year of the Horse started with an impressive consumption spree.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), revenue from retail and catering enterprises amounted to 610.7 billion yuan ($100.8 billion) during the seven-day holiday, up 13.3 percent year on year.

The National Tourism Administration also reported tourism revenue of 126.4 billion yuan ($20.84 billion) during the holiday, up 16.4 percent year on year.

New trends

Family dinners and classmate reunions accounted for the bulk of catering consumption during the holiday, with popular restaurants witnessing their operating revenue shoot up by 20 percent in Anhui, Liaoning, Hubei and Hunan provinces, according to the MOFCOM figures.

Reasonably priced family reunion dinners become very popular this year, with private rooms at old-brand establishments like the restaurants Kaorouji and Tongheju in Beijing almost booked up before New Year's Eve.

Since the Central Government started the frugality campaign last year, many top-grade restaurants have begun to take a low profile. Quanjude, a restaurant well known for its Peking roast duck, reduced the price for New Year's Eve dinner for10 persons by 300 yuan ($50).

As online shopping expands by leaps and bounds, the popularity of 3G networks and the launch of the 4G services have made mobile shopping more convenient. During the holiday, there were voices calling for young people to teach their parents how to place orders with their smart phones.

According to newly released statistics from Alipay, China's leading third-party online payment service provider, the number of mobile payments during the holiday exceeded 100 million, accounting for 52 percent of total transaction value on Alipay. The transaction value per day made by its mobile users soared to 4.38 times as much as that of the previous year and 42 times that of the 2012 Spring Festival.

In addition, mobile Internet, replacing traditional text messages and phone calls, has evolved into the main medium for Spring Festival greetings. As the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reported, the consumption of mobile Internet data from January 30 to February 6 was 25 percent higher than usual. In contrast, the number of text messages on New Year's Eve dropped by 8 percent year on year.

With China's remarkable social and economic progress, a stronger emphasis on recreation is beginning to surface.

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