BEIJING — The Chinese didn’t just set off thousands of fireworks and feast on banquets of dumplings during the recent Lunar New Year holiday, which ran Feb. 2 through Feb. 8. They did plenty of shopping as well.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, Chinese consumers spent 404.5 billion renminbi, or about $61 billion, over the seven-day holiday period, also known as Golden Week. That’s a 19 percent increase from the year before.
Retail spending spiked even higher outside of first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai. In Shanxi Province, for example, sales were up 23 percent, while Sichuan Province saw a 21.5 percent gain and Tianjin, a city about an hour away from Beijing, had a 20 percent increase, according to the commerce ministry.
Jewelry, particularly gold and diamonds, as well as consumer electronics and household appliances were among the top performing retail categories. In Beijing’s Caishikou department store, diamond sales were up 95 percent, the ministry said. Apple products, including the iPhone and iPad, were also in high demand.
Song Zhi Yuan, a 45-year-old millionaire who works for a Shanghai-based engineering company, said he bought around a dozen iPhone 4s and iPads for clients and government officials who helped the company secure contracts. In total, he said he spent around 20,000 renminbi, or $3,000, over the holiday period.
“This year, I prepared more than 50 Chinese tea sets and also gave iPhones and iPads for Chinese officials,” Song said. “They have the authority to give projects.”
Zhang Wen Kai earns around 100 million renminbi, or $15.2 million, annually with the tile manufacturing business she runs in Foshan, a city in the southern province of Guangdong. She said she spent 50,000 renminbi, or $7,576, on gifts this year. Zhang said she bought designer clothing, including items from Louis Vuitton and Fendi, for friends and business associates, as well as wine and bird’s nest, an ingredient used in Chinese cuisine that runs about $1,000 a box.
A survey conducted by the Beijing Meilande Information consulting firm found that Chinese families, on average, spent 10,105 renminbi, or $1,531, for this year’s holiday, compared with an average of 5,181 renminbi, or $785, in 2010.
The Chinese are also shopping abroad. The Meilande survey found 11.6 percent traveled outside of China for the Lunar New Year, a 3.3 percent increase from the year before. They’re going to places like Las Vegas, New York and Europe.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board said visitor arrivals from Mainland China during Golden Week reached a new high of 662,928 people. The organization said that is 15.7 percent more travelers than the year before.
Eight hundred Chinese tourists traveled to Vegas for Golden Week, where they received a two-hour private tour of Macy’s, the Shanghai Daily newspaper reported. The travelers, from Beijing and Guangzhou, had annual incomes of more than 200,000 renminbi, or $30,304. Twenty percent earned between 600,000 renminbi, or $90,912, and 1 million renminbi, or $151,520, the newspaper said.