Sales boom points to more relaxed, happier Chinese New Year
Published: Feb 04, 2021 07:08 PM

Residents shop for Chinese Lunar New Year decorations at a market in Hefei, east China's Anhui Province, Jan. 30, 2021. (Xinhua/Huang Bohan)

Around this time last year, China was brought to a virtual standstill by the novel coronavirus, with widespread business shutdowns and millions of consumers trapped at home. This year, cascading wave of people rushing to local markets and online shopping platforms to stock up on holiday products offers a vivid testament to the country's recovery from COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Chinese New Year draws near, sales of everything from food to apparel to electronics to cosmetics have climbed significantly. Most notably, sales of recreational and fitness equipment, such as electric mahjong machines and jump ropes, skyrocketed, foreshadowing a more relaxed and healthy holiday ahead in stark contrast with the gloom last year.

The ongoing sales event for holiday-related goods picked up pace on Thursday, which marked Xiaonian (minor New Year). The transition falls on the 23rd or 24th day of the last month of the lunar calendar, and it officially kicks off the beginning of the Spring Festival.

Since January 20 when the shopping event started, online sales have reached 510 billion yuan ($78.96 billion), with over one-third coming in the last four days, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce. Sales of groceries for the New Year's Eve dinner increased by 96 percent year-on-year, the data showed.

In addition to food, sales of alcoholic beverages, electronics and recreational products also grew substantially on online shopping sites. Sales of brandy increased 1,100 percent from last year, sales of smartphones increased 2,000 percent and sales of poker and mahjong equipment increased 200 percent, said in a press release sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

On Alibaba's platform Taobao, electric mahjong machines have become the most popular holiday item, with daily sales up 130 percent year-on-year, creating a shortage in supplies at factories. Among the best-sellers on Taobao are sunflower seeds, peanuts and cherries, whose prices have plummeted in recent days due to concerns of COVID-19 from imported fresh produce.

"Thanks to impressive epidemic control, a robust economic recovery and a largely intact nationwide logistics system and supply chain, consumers' enthusiasm is strong and their spending power is solid," Lu Zhenwang, founder of Shanghai Wanqing Commerce Consulting, who tracks consumer spending, said.

While there have been several clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks in some areas, China has largely kept the disease under control. Also as part of the effort to contain the virus, workers across the country have been asked to stay where they work for the holidays - a move that has led to a drop in travel but significantly boosted online spending. 

As many young workers living in big cities order holiday gifts for their parents or relatives back home, the number of orders made for delivery to different locations jumped 200 percent, according to

"The improvement from last year is very obvious…outbreaks in several areas and many factors contributed to explosive sales online ahead of the New Year," Liu Dingding, an e-commerce sector observer, told the Global Times. 

Apart from the pandemic, consumers were worried about their jobs and cut back their spending last year. But sentiment has improved significantly now, boosted by not just the economic recovery but also continued policy support, analysts said.

Among a series of measures to support businesses and employees, the People's Bank of China, the central bank, on Thursday released 100 billion yuan into the market to ensure stable liquidity ahead of the Chinese New Year.

Online campaign of special purchases for 2021 Spring Festival Infographic: Deng Zijun and Chen Xia/GT