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Calendar conundrum

By Yang Jing Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-26 18:08:01

A woman looks at calendars in a market in Huaibei, East China's Anhui Province on December 3. Photo: CFP

Ding Feifei, who works for a State-owned bank, plans to make her own calendar this year.

"In previous years, we started to send calendars to our clients and also received a lot from local branches in November," Ding told the Global Times Wednesday. "Each staff member in my office got at least three or four calendars, and some of them were just left in the corner."

However, Ding has neither received nor sent any calendars toward the end of 2013.

"It's even rare to see a New Year's card this year," she said.

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and government departments stopped buying calendars this year after the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) issued a notice about thrift on October 31.

The notice forbids Party and government organizations as well as SOEs from spending public funds on printing, purchasing and sending presents, including greeting cards and calendars.

The ban meant that many orders were withdrawn, leading to a serious loss for the calendar makers.

Sharp fall in orders

Cangnan, a county in East China's Zhejiang Province, is known as a "calendar county" because more than 75 percent of the calendars sold in China are produced by enterprises in Cangnan, Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.

In previous years, orders from government offices and SOEs accounted for about 30 or 40 percent of the total orders, Lin Hongnuan, sales manager at Cangnan County Kaifeng Paper and Plastic Products Co, told the Global Times Tuesday.

However, this year the orders from State firms and offices were all canceled after the notice released by the CCDI, and most calendar makers are facing a 40 percent year-on-year fall in revenue as a result, according to Lin.

Calendar makers usually design new products in spring, receive orders in July and August, and finish printing in October, Xinhua reported.

When the governments and SOEs withdrew their orders in November after the notice, most orders had already been completed, he said.

The notice also affected Yiwu, another city in Zhejiang Province, which is famous for its trading of small commodities.

Jin Jingxi, president of the Yiwu cultural gift industry association, estimated that calendar makers in Yiwu might lose more than 100 million yuan ($16.47 million) this year due to the withdrawal of many orders, according to the Xinhua report.

Lin Hongnuan's company, Kaifeng, was one of a few firms that were able to limit their losses thanks to foresight.

When the CCDI released eight rules advocating more frugal practices by officials and government bodies at the end of last year, the company realized that it might not be able to rely on government orders as much as before, Lin noted.

Therefore, Kaifeng tried to win more orders from private enterprises this year, he said, noting that the company has been able to maintain similar revenue to last year.

Ordinary customers, both individuals and enterprises, still have a need for calendars, Lin said.

Especially for private enterprises, calendars are a cost-effective means of advertising, Lin noted. The calendars can show the logo and contact information of companies and can be produced and distributed at a relatively low cost.

It is hard to say whether orders from private enterprises can fill the space left by orders based on public

funds, but calendar makers have to make a change, he said.

New opportunities

In addition to focusing more on private enterprises, some calendar makers are moving into e-commerce.

Gu Lian Trade Co, which is also located in Yiwu, launched an online calendar store called Muulee on tmall.com in 2009.

This year, the firm has not received any orders from government bodies or SOEs, a sales manager at the company who wished to remain anonymous told the Global Times Tuesday. Roughly 90 percent of the company's orders came from private enterprises, he said.

"The ban notice brought a large loss for our offline business," the manager said, without revealing data about the extent of the loss.

But Muulee saw much stronger performance this year, with revenue rising by about 70 percent compared to last year, he said.

Calendar makers have to make a transformation and explore new markets, Zhou Dewen, president of the Wenzhou Council for the Promotion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, told the Global Times Tuesday.

The new leadership of the Chinese government is determined to clamp down on wasteful use of public funds, he said.

Some enterprises have noticed this and have already made changes, Zhou said, noting that some firms are now developing new businesses, such as printing promotional materials for private enterprises or exploring overseas markets.

With their mature printing technology, these enterprises can turn the short-term difficulties into an opportunity and improve their development, he said.

Calendar manufacturing is not the only industry that has seen a fall in sales amid the central government's campaign against extravagance.

High-end liquor firms, expensive restaurants, and luxury goods brands have all suffered a sluggish year, Zhao Ping, deputy director of the Consumption Economics Department at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times Tuesday.

The total revenue of 13 listed Chinese baijiu enterprises in the first three quarters dropped by 3.17 percent year-on-year, and the total net profit decreased 6.33 percent year-on-year, news portal chinanews.com reported on November 11, noting it is the first time in nine years that the industry has witnessed a fall in profit.

The annual sales revenue growth of the luxury goods industry in China has slowed from 19 percent last year to 4 percent this year, Beijing-based newspaper The Mirror reported Tuesday, noting that many luxury stores in Beijing were offering high discounts in December but still had less customers than last year.

Meanwhile, the growth of total retail sales for consumer goods this year has been around 13 percent, less than the 14.3 percent growth last year, Zhao said.

Some industries and enterprises are faced with difficulties now, but in the long term, the campaign against using public funds for extravagant consumption will help in building a healthier market, Zhao said.

Without excess spending of public funds, the market will be able to develop in a stable way in a more reasonable and rational environment, according to Zhao.

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