China’s retail, catering, box office sales jump during Spring Festival holidays

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China’s retail, catering and cinema box office sales jumped during the week-long Spring Festival holidays. Local travels surged in the holiday as Chinese were encouraged to avoid long-distance trips to help contain a series of COVID-19 flare-ups.

The total revenue generated by China’s key retailers and catering companies during the holidays (February 11 – 17) increased 28.7 per cent from the holiday last year to 821 billion yuan, rising 4.9 per cent higher from the same period in 2019, according to data released by the Ministry of Commerce.

Notably, the “key” retailers tracked by the ministry are larger companies based in major cities, which likely benefited from virus restrictions that prevented millions of people traveling from cities to the countryside.

Sales of luxury goods have been stronger than mass-market products since the pandemic, reflecting restrictions on overseas travel and a stronger recovery in wages for high-earners. That trend appeared to persist over the holiday, with jewelery sales at retailers tracked by the Ministry of Commerce rising 161 per cent on last year.

In addition, retail sales of garments, telecommunication devices and home appliance surged by 107.1 per cent, 39 per cent and 29.9 per cent, respectively, showed the data.

E-commerce benefited from travel restrictions, as families exchanged gifts by post. Cainiao, the logistics arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., said package volumes it handled during the holiday were five times higher than the same period in 2019.

The country’s express delivery business volume during February 11-15, the first five days of the holiday week, surged 224 per cent from a year ago to 365 million parcels, according to the State Post Bureau.

During the period of February 4 – 15, its shipments were four times the amount during the Spring Festival holiday in 2019 and the four major logistics companies in China saw delivery volume reaching more than eight times of the amount during the same period in 2019, according to data from Cainiao.

Catering companies’ revenue during the holiday week surged 358.4 per cent from the same period last year when the country was in a lockdown and rose 5.4 per cent from the level seen in the holiday in 2019, according to data from the China State Tax Administration.

Cinema box office sales were particularly strong over the period. The total box office revenue hit a new record high of 7.822 billion yuan, compared to the previous record of 5.905 billion yuan set in the holiday period in 2019, according to data from the China Film Administration.

So for in the year of 2021, China’s total box office sales have exceeded 10 billion yuan, which is close to half of the full-year number last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

According to the ticketing platform Maoyan Entertainment, the number of cinema visits in China during the holiday totaled nearly 160 million.

As Chinese people were encouraged to avoid non-essential long-term trips during the holiday to help contain the Covid-19 flare-ups, an increasing number of people chose local travels.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, most travel destinations were tourists attractions sites and countrysides close to cities. The number of people traveling over the past 20 days plunged 73 per cent from a year ago, according to data from the Ministry of Transport. Visitor flow at shopping malls in large cities decreased 14 per cent from 2019 levels, the Ministry of Commerce said, suggesting consumers remain cautious about visiting shops.

Data from Feizhu showed that, reservations for local trips during the week surged more than 660 per cent from the same period last year.

According to data from Trip.com, China’s largest online travel agency, during the holiday week, ticket bookings for local travel surged by more than 300 per cent from a year earlier. Tourist attractions in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou, Luoyang, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xi’an and Chongqing saw the highest number of visitors, according to the data.

Separately, Shanghai, Suzhou, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, Beijing, Chongqing and Shenzhen saw the most outbound travelers, according to Lvmama. According to data from TTG Chia, in the first six days of the holiday, the number of local travels surged 289 per cent from a year earlier, with the number in some cities surging by more than 300 per cent.

In addition, the data from Ctrip showed that the number of car rentals for local tripos increased 82 per cent from the holiday week in 2019.

Notably, high-end travel increased significantly as the Covid-19 pandemic has made overseas trips impossible. Data from Ctrip showed that booking for 4-star and 5-star hotel accounted for 60 per cent of the total hotel booking during the holiday, with average price of the hotel booking reaching 2,906 yuan, surging 407 per cent from the average price of 714 yuan in January.

Consumption over the Lunar New Year was “resilient,” analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote in a note, with the data indicating private consumption and capital expenditure are “taking the baton from infrastructure and property construction” in the economy’s recovery.