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Market Avenue

UPDATED: December 31, 2009 NO. 1 JANUARY 7, 2010
Santa Claus Coming to Town
More Chinese are embracing the Christmas holiday season, providing a vital boost to the country's economy

In a bid to extend the shopping spree on Christmas Eve, some vendors kept their doors open for extra hours. Beijing Joy City and Zhongyou Department Store closed at midnight, two hours later than normal, and the New World Department Store in Beijing closed after the last customer left.

While local shops were busy vying for customers, a growing number of people put Hong Kong and even Europe on their list of shopping destinations.

Beijing resident Xiao Zhiting traveled to Hong Kong with her fiancé before Christmas Eve. Her shopping list cost more than 20,000 yuan ($2,941)—cosmetics for her sister and friends, jewelry for her mother and upcoming wedding, and famous brand bags for herself.

"Shopping was the only goal of my trip to Hong Kong," Xiao said.

Luxury goods are much cheaper in Hong Kong and during Christmas promotional events were abundant, she added.

According to the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily, during Christmas and New Year holidays, travelers from Zhuhai to Hong Kong and Macao increased 50 percent than normal times throughout the year, and the hotel rates in Hong Kong and Macao usually triple during the holidays as a result of increasing visitor volume.

The Christmas shopping frenzy has also spread to the Internet. On Youa.baidu.com, products relevant to Christmas could be viewed on the website's homepage as early as November. Another online shopping website, Taobao.com, also offered Christmas-themed promotions totaling 75 million yuan ($11.03 million).

"Christmas falls at the end of the year when company staff are quite busy and don't have time to go to department stores, so they prefer to buy things online," said Chen Bin, an online seller in Chengdu.

Online shopping website Liyi99.com had a daily click volume 100 percent higher than last year, CEO Qiao Yajuan said.

"Although the average price increased by 20 percent over last year, our sales weren't influenced," said Qiao.

Taobao.com, Asia's biggest online retailer, also claimed its turnover scored 4.8 billion yuan ($705.9 million) from December 8-14, an increase of more than 200 percent year on year.

Made in China

As the major supplier of Christmas products and gifts, labels on 80 percent of the world's Christmas goods read "Made in China," according to the Xinhua News Agency. Despite holding a large percent of the total holiday export volume, the sluggish Christmas season in the United States and Europe had a significant impact on China's export of seasonal products.

According to Shenyang Customs in northeast China, in the first 11 months of 2009, Christmas exports in Liaoning Province decreased 42.2 percent year on year. Exports to Europe slumped 44.3 percent year on year, while American exports dropped 53.1 percent year on year. The United States and Europe accounted for 77.6 percent of Liaoning's Christmas exports.

According to the General Administration of Customs, Christmas product exports from Guangdong Province from January to October 2009 decreased 10.2 percent, with exports bound for the United States decreasing 17.1 percent year on year.

"The decreasing export volume had to do with the tight budgets of American and European buyers in the aftermath of the global financial crisis," said Hua Yi, a partner at the Beijing-based Adfaith Management Consulting Co. Ltd.

In response to sluggish exports, more enterprises turned inward, focusing on domestic consumers.

"The overseas demand plummet forced us to focus on the domestic market," said the manager of a Christmas product manufacturing plant in Guangdong who withheld his name. "The Chinese people have been more and more open to the Christmas celebration, so the increase in the domestic market made up for the decrease in the overseas market."

In contrast to other areas, in Yiwu City, Zhejiang Province, which boasts the world's biggest wholesale market of small commodities, Christmas product exports fared much better than expected. According to Yiwu Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, from May to November, the bureau inspected 29.16 million yuan ($4.27 million) worth of Christmas products, an increase of 22 percent year on year.

"We tried focusing on customers from South America," said Zhou Ailing, a Christmas product dealer in Yiwu. "This year my customers from Brazil and Argentina increased by 20 percent, making up for the order decrease from the United States and Europe."

"South America has become the largest buyer of my company," said Huang Yiming, owner of Yiwu Hangtian Artware Co. Ltd.

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