Golden Week

Mainland retail sales jump 15pc during "golden week" holiday

Mainland's toll-free policy helps boost travel demand and spur consumption

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 2:26am


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Retail sales of consumer goods rose 15 per cent to 800.6 billion yuan (HK$980.17 billion) on the mainland during the eight-day "golden week" holiday that ended yesterday, surpassing industry expectations.

The Ministry of Commerce said the retail sector, restaurants and tourism all saw robust growth during the Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day holiday between September 30 and October 7.

Precious metals, including gold and silver, jewellery and digital products were among the most popular items sought by consumers, the ministry said.

The mainland has for the first time waived toll charges for expressways during a major holiday - a measure that lured millions of people to go on a holiday in their cars. On the first day after the tolls were removed, highways were so packed that cars were stuck in endless queues for hours.

Tourism has been developing fast on the mainland, in step with a growing middle class, and has opened up more jobs. More than 13 million people are now working in the sector, according to official numbers.

Wang Xianqing, a professor specialising in retail and distribution at the Guangdong University of Business Studies, said the growth in retail sales during the "golden week" holiday was beyond industry expectations.

"The domestic economy has been weak and the retail sector has remained feeble for a while," he said. He had estimated sales growth of 5 to 10 per cent.

The better-than-expected growth showed the government's stimulus measures were working, Wang said.

He said almost every city and town had hosted shopping fairs, offering discounts and a greater product range. The toll-free highways bolstered travel demand and people were likely to consume more when they were travelling, Wang said.

He expects the retail market to cool after the holiday. "The strong growth during the holiday period doesn't mean China's economy or its retail sector is improving. The performance during the holiday does not reflect the general situation."

Retail sales rose 17.5 per cent to 696.2 billion yuan during the "golden week" holiday in 2011, which was a day shorter than this year.