Chinese New Year: Did consumers boost growth?

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Chinese New Year 2016, courtesy Global Blue

China and the rest of the world have been pinning a lot of hopes on spending figures for last week. Golden Week as it’s known is a key time when shoppers are expected to splurge both at home and abroad.

But why is the world watching so closely? China is trying to turn itself from a classic emerging/undeveloped market (one dependent on resources and investment in huge industrial spending) into a consumer-led one (where consumer spending is king).

That transformation is causing some blips in its economic growth chart and that has been panicking the rest of the world – just witness the rout we’ve seen in global stock markets this year.

But is China succeeding in its attempt to reshape its economy? Well, last year consumption accounted for 66.4% of GDP, a 15.4% rise. And that momentum appears to be continuing.

The latest figures for China’s big New Year spring festival (which is as much about shopping as anything else these days) suggest so anyway.

China’s Ministry of Commerce has just released spending figures for last week and the news is good. Spending in stores and online, as well as in restaurants rose 11.2% to CNY754bn (that’s about $115bn) for the week-long festival. That rise comes after a similar 11% rise this time last year.

And the sectors that contributed most to the growth? Well it’s good news for the fashion sector. Online surged (of course), while clothing and gold/jewellery were the other driving sectors.

But the Chinese didn’t only buy stuff, they also went to the movies. Cinema takings on the first day of the New Year (February 8) hit a record CNY660m with a take of CNY1.7bn across the first three days. That was an 80% surge and almost equalled the takings for the whole week a year ago.

It all suggests that the slowdown in China’s economy many people around the world are fearing may not be as inevitable as they think. China isn’t just an exporter to the world, it also has massive potential in its domestic market with a growing middle class seeking more (and higher quality) products, as well as better quality leisure time.

Phew.

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