Year of the Ram leads to spend­ing binge among con­sumers

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - ByWANG ZHUO­QIONG wangzhuo­qiong@chi­

Xiang Nan, a mother who hails from Nan­jing, Jiangsu prov­ince, spent the Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­day in Bei­jing, where her fam­ily dined at a fa­mous Pek­ing Duck restau­rant and vis­ited popular tourist sites and shop­ping cen­ters.

But un­like many who made their Lu­nar New Year plans long ahead, her trip was spon­ta­neous.

“I saw­pic­tures of snow in Bei­jing in the morn­ing and we jumped on the next ex­press train,” said Xiang, 34. “At 8 pm, we were on Wang­fu­jing Street in down­town Bei­jing eat­ing duck. It was won­der­ful.”

Xiang was among the many who sought en­ter­tain­ment through con­sump­tion. The Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­day, which ran from Feb 18 to 24 this year, is tra­di­tion­ally time for the largest fam­ily gath­er­ing for Chi­nese peo­ple.

Re­tail and cater­ing sales rose 11 per­cent from last year to 678 bil­lion yuan ($109.3 bil­lion), ac­cord­ing to theMin­istry of Com­merce. But that was down from the growth rate in 2013, which was 13.3 per­cent.

Sales of high-end and luxury gifts, in­clud­ing tobacco and liquor, de­clined amid the gov­ern­ment’s anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign. Mean­while, sales of tra­di­tional fes­ti­val prod­ucts, cloth­ing, gold and jew­elry, as well as dig­i­tal prod­ucts, soared.

Lead­ing do­mes­tic re­tail­ers such as Chongqing Depart­ment Store, Bet­ter-Life Com­mer­cial Chain Share Co Ltd and Ren­renle Com­merce Group Co Ltd Su­per­mar­ket re­ported sales gains of 21 per­cent, 19 per­cent and 18 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

Ap­pli­ance re­tailer Sun­ing Com­merce Group said that com­mu­ni­ca­tions prod­uct sales were up 29 per­cent dur­ing the fes­ti­val week.

Spring Fes­ti­val din­ners at restau­rants, which used to carry sky­high prices, were aimed this year at the mass mar­ket. But still, Lu­nar NewYear’s Eve din­ner sales to­taled 29.45 mil­lion yuan, up 12 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry. Con­sumers mostly opted for es­tab­lished and tra­di­tional brands for their cel­e­bra­tions with fam­ily and friends.

Xiang spent 2,600 yuan for her fam­ily’s duck ban­quet in Bei­jing. where the wait­ing time was al­most two hours. The restau­rant manager, sur­named Li, said that dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val, the shop served at least 500 ta­bles a day.

Growth of the cater­ing sec­tor picked up in 2014 af­ter an ad­just­ment prompted by the aus­ter­ity drive. Restau­rant sales to­taled 2.786 tril­lion yuan in 2014, up 9.7 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the China Cui­sine As­so­ci­a­tion.

Jiang Junx­ian, head of the CCA, has fore­cast dou­ble-digit growth for the sec­tor this year, with rev­enue of about 3 tril­lion yuan.

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