At the weekend, crowds packed a former industrial warehouse in Beijing as China Fashion Week got underway, as models without masks strutted on a square runway for guests oblivious of social distancing regulations.
Similarly vibrant scenes are being seen elsewhere in China as consumers return to cinemas, live performances and restaurants.
To many, it indicates that a late-summer recovery in Chinese household spending is broadening and propelling the next stage of the economic recovery.
“This August, sales in the domestic [apparel] market turned from negative to positive,” China Fashion Designers Committee chairman Zhang Qinghui said last week. “I think the numbers for September, or even the fourth quarter, will be better.”
Sales of consumer goods, a proxy for consumption in China, rose across the board at the end of the third quarter, led by vehicle purchases, as household incomes returned to positive growth and employment conditions improved after being depressed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recovery has made China a lone bright spot in the retail world and a major source of earnings for global consumer brands from Starbucks to Louis Vuitton.
However, Chinese spending on services has lagged that on goods, and sectors such as hospitality and catering have fared particularly badly due to social distancing regulations, restrictions on operating hours and caps on capacity.
With the easing of curbs gathering pace, the hospitality sector is poised to accelerate its recovery. Already, its contraction in output narrowed in the third quarter compared with the previous three months.
“The services industry had been the most affected by COVID. Now, with restrictions being lifted, the industry is gradually emerging from its downturn, which would provide a strong boost to the broad recovery in the consumer market,” Hong Kong-based Gavekal Dragonomics analyst Ernan Cui said. “We expect growth would return to pre-COVID levels by the end of the year.”
Retail sales growth last month was still only one-third of pre-pandemic levels, but economists expect the overall consumer market to stage a sharp rebound in the coming months, after entertainment venues from cinemas to KTVs reopened in August.
On Oct. 1, the first day of the “Golden Week” holiday, China’s box office sales were 745 million yuan (US$111 million), the highest single-day sales this year and the second-highest for the holiday.
During the eight-day holiday, there were 637 million domestic tourists, although that number was only 79 percent of last year’s total.
“We’ve returned to our old habits,” said a 57-year-old Shanghai retiree surnamed Chen, who went on a 22-day self-drive tour in Xinjiang with her friends.
In Beijing, local rock bands have been playing to enthusiastic crowds each weekend at Temple Bar since it resumed hosting live gigs last month.
“Business is more or less back to pre-COVID levels,” a staff member said. “All we need right now is a vaccine. With that, everything can truly return to normal.”
The return of spending is as vital to business-to-business companies as it is to consumer-facing firms.
Benjamin Barthelemy, a Parisian who runs a film production studio in Beijing, said that many small entertainment businesses had started recovering from the pandemic in the past two months.
“Many, many meetings, many projects are coming back — it’s like the machine slowly restarts. Commercials for cars and for everything else are really good now,” Barthelemy said.
Tmall, Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplace, expects more than 2,600 foreign brands — an all-time high — to take part in next month’s online “Double 11” shopping festival, with sales set for another record in its 12th year.
Booming online consumption is helped by an improving employment market.
China in the first nine months created 8.98 million urban jobs, nearly hitting the government’s full-year target of more than 9 million.
Household income growth in the third quarter turned positive, up 0.6 percent year-on-year.
For some sectors, the recovery has taken a different form.
Riviera Events, a Singapore-based event management company with branches across China, did not hold any virtual events before this year. Now, half of its events are online.
“For an industry that was so hard-hit, we’re lucky in some ways that the industry has rebounded in this way,” Riviera Events cofounder Stephane de Montgros said.
“We’re very hopeful that from the fourth quarter, the event industry in mainland China will be growing year-on-year,” he said.
‘SPIKES’: Rudy Giuliani at a hearing asked about voting data in Pennsylvania, with a witness saying that 570,000 votes they selected were for Biden and 3,200 for Trump US president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday said that Americans “won’t stand” for attempts to derail the US election outcome, as US President Donald Trump called for results to be overturned. Biden said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, that Americans “have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results.” “The people of this nation and the laws of the land won’t stand for anything else,” he said. However, Trump is challenging the results, with lawsuits under way in several states. “We have to turn the election over,” he told a hearing in Pennsylvania. “This election was rigged.” “All we need is
Hundreds of flights at one of China’s busiest airports were canceled yesterday as Shanghai raced to bring a local COVID-19 outbreak under control. Health officials have tested thousands of staff at Pudong International Airport since a small cluster of COVID-19 cases in the city was linked to several cargo handlers. China — where the virus first emerged late last year — has largely brought the COVID-19 pandemic under control through travel restrictions and lockdowns, but it is now battling a number of domestic outbreaks in different cities. Shanghai has reported seven local infections linked to the airport this month, with most cases found
For thousands of years, the dainty Fritillaria delavayi has grown slowly on the rocky slopes of the Hengduan mountains in China, producing a bright green flower after its fifth year. The conspicuous small plant has one deadly enemy: people, who harvest the flower for traditional Chinese medicine. As commercial harvesting has intensified, Fritillaria delavayi has vanished — by rapidly evolving to produce gray and brown leaves and flowers that cannot be so easily seen by pickers. Scientists have discovered that the color of the plant’s leaves has become more camouflaged — matching the background rocks on which they grow — in areas where
‘OCEAN OF STORMS’: The Chang’e 5 seeks to collect about 5kg of samples from a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain, known as Oceanus Procellarum China plans to launch an uncrewed spacecraft to the moon this week to bring back lunar rocks in the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from Earth’s natural satellite since the 1970s. The Chang’e 5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, would seek to collect material that could help scientists understand the moon’s origins and formation. The mission would test China’s ability to remotely acquire samples from space, ahead of more complex missions. If successful, the mission will make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, following the US and the Soviet Union decades