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2015 Chinese New Year Sales: Guangzhou

Throughout Chinese New Year 2015, Guangzhou’s major retailers adopted a range of tactics designed to counter economic shrinkage. Despite this, their sales performance during the seven-day Spring Festival period still fell short of expectations.

Photo: The Ram City welcomes the Year of the Ram. (Xinhua News Agency)
The Ram City welcomes the Year of the Ram.
Photo: The Ram City welcomes the Year of the Ram. (Xinhua News Agency)
The Ram City welcomes the Year of the Ram.

Figures from the Ministry of Commerce show that, from New Year’s Eve to the sixth day of the Chinese New Year, the total sales of retail and catering enterprises nationwide amounted to Rmb678 billion, up 11% over the Spring Festival golden week last year. At the same time, year-on-year growth dropped 2.3 percentage points. HKTDC's mainland offices in Beijing, Dalian, Qingdao, Xi'an, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Chongqing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Fuzhou and Shenzhen, made market visits to a number of high-end, mid-high end and mid-range shopping centres in their respective cities a week after the Chinese New Year (19-25 February 2015) in order to establish just how holiday sales fared this year.

1.  Nine Leading Stores: Double-digit Sales Drop

A review of consumer spending during the seven-day Spring Festival holidays (18-24 February 2015) shows that many department stores in Guangzhou recorded no year-on-year sales growth or even a decline. According to statistics compiled by news websites in Guangzhou, the nine major department stores in the city - Grandbuy, Friendship, Teemall, Mopark, Simgo, Dongshan, Cnjoy, Guangzhou Wangfujing and U-City – collectively showed an overall year-on-year decline of 11.26% in Spring Festival sales, with a total turnover of Rmb529.8 million. This is the first year-on-year slide in overall sales for three years. 

StoreSales (Rmb)Year-on-year change
Grandbuy Department Store (including Xin Da Xin)140 million- 24%
Guangzhou Friendship StoreClose to 100 millionSlightly down
Mopark Department Store89 million-1%
Teemall Department StoreOver 70 million- 6.67%
Dongshan Department Store25 million-22%
U-City28.3 million-10%
Simgo Department Store32 million+3.2%
Cnjoy Department Store32 million+6.67%
Wangfujing Department Store13.5 million-41%

2.  Festive Goods Dominate, Digital Technology Items Popular

Fashionable and Stylish Technology Products

Apart from traditional New Year goods, such as food, health tonics, clothing and footwear, fashionable and stylish technology products also proved an important sales category in most shopping centres during the festival period. Air purifiers and dehumidifiers, for example, were prominently displayed in the electrical appliance section of the Friendship Department Store and enjoyed a sales growth of about 10%. Stylish digital products, such as the iPhone 6 and the iPad Air 2, were popular New Year gifts among young consumers, contributing to a year-on-year growth of 20% in electronics sales. High-end home appliances  was another category favoured by shoppers during the Spring Festival period.

Golden Prospects

Apart from visiting temples and paying their religious respects, Guangdong people also like to buy gold items, believing they signify wealth and fortune, during Chinese New Year. This year, the sales of gold items - including ornaments in the form of animal zodiacs, small-sized gold products for investment and gold collectibles - fared particularly well. Overall, there was a significant rise in the demand for gold commodities. Many of the major department stores also saw a surge in the sales of gold jewellery. Smaller gold ornaments, such as rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings, were also very much in demand at many jewellery outlets, including Luk Fook, Chow Tai Fook, Chow Sang Sang and TSL.

The gold ornament section of Grandbuy Gold Building reported an impressive year-on-year growth of 50% in the sales of certain brands. During the same period, the sales of gold at Mopark shot up by an impressive 150% year-on-year. A sales assistant at Dongshan Department Store stated that more than 10 pairs of dragon-phoenix bangles had been sold in its main store within an hour on the first day of Chinese New Year. This uptake was partly ascribed to the success of the store’s “no workmanship fee” promotion on gold ornaments throughout the Spring Festival. One customer bought eight dragon-phoenix bangles (with a total value of Rmb150,000), the largest transaction recorded during the festival period.

Demand for Value-for-money Imports

According to the Guangzhou Friendship Supermarket, as a result of the central government’s austerity drive, department stores generally saw a rise in personal spending on New Year goods, while purchases by government bodies and state-owned enterprises dropped. While large group buying orders from government organisations declined dramatically, the retail sale of New Year goods still saw a growth of 5-8%. Unlike past years, this year consumers shopping for New Year goods and food tended to opt for practical items in simple packaging. Imported products were popular, especially those considered good-value-for-money. Biscuits, candies, nuts, chocolates, tobacco and wines from abroad were the bestsellers at various Friendship stores.

3.  All-out Efforts to Attract Consumers

In order to draw in customers and stimulate spending, a number of leading retail stores rolled out various promotional initiatives, including special discounts and lucky draws. The most noteworthy ones this year were the experience-based activities held at shopping centres and the distribution of “digital red packets” via mobile apps.

Digital Red Packets

The “red packet” mobile app war between WeChat Payment and Alipay Wallet resulted in a nationwide digital red packets bonanza during the Spring Festival. Over the long holiday, everyone was trying to secure WeChat Red Packets by tapping and shaking their handsets. This has not only heightened the festive atmosphere in Guangzhou, but also allowed major department stores to make use of the app for marketing purposes.

The Guangzhou Friendship Store is said to have taken the lead by staging its “WeChat Shake to Earn Red Packets” activity and giving away 30 high value red packets value to consumers as a New Year incentive. The Friendship Supermarket went even further, introducing WeChat Payment functions so as to save consumers the trouble of lining up to pay for new-year purchases. As a result, the Friendship Store recorded a total turnover close to Rmb100 million during the Spring Festival holiday, similar to that of last year.

Experience-based Activities

In response to the challenges from e-commerce operators and the competition from major traditional retailers selling many of the same things, several large shopping centres in Guangzhou rolled out experience-based activities under different themes during the Chinese New Year period in order to attract shoppers.

4. Guangzhou Ranks Fifth in China’s Online New Year Sales  

In the past, express delivery services were suspended during the Chinese New Year holiday, depriving online shoppers of this facility for several days. This year, though, a number of e-commerce and express delivery operators ran their businesses as usual, with transactions continuing throughout the Chinese New Year period. According to Tmall, one such operator, 60% of its customers shopped online via their smartphones during the holiday, with the most popular daily purchases being baby products, notably diapers and milk powder. According to one mainland news website, the sales of large home appliances during the week from New Year’s Eve to the sixth day of the Chinese New Year enjoyed a year-on-year growth of 265%, whereas sales of daily articles at 11 cities through chaoshi.tmall.com (Tmall Supermarket) shot up 42-fold year-on-year. Among all mainland cities, Guangzhou ranked fifth for online sales during the Chinese New Year.

VenueThemeDescription
Grandview MallHello Kitty 40th anniversary touring exhibition40 Hello Kitty styles from different years were displayed at the venue. Over 800 varieties of licensed Hello Kitty keepsakes, including plush toys, stationery and mobile phone accessories, were on sale. A DIY interactive zone was also set up for consumers to order tailor-made keepsakes.
TeemallNew Year ethnic culture showThis art show featured a crossover of Chinese and western culture. With “ram” as the main theme, it exemplified the traditional reputation of Guangzhou as the Ram City on the one hand, while introducing various Chinese New Year customs, such as the art of paper cutting, door gods and protective talismans, on the other. It brought together the Chinese New Year customs and cultures with western pop art.
Happy Valley GuangzhouSpring BazaarThe Spring Bazaar featured a wide array of beautiful flowers from Chencun (Chen Village). It also brought together traditional Spring Festival customs and the intangible cultural heritage of Guangzhou, such as the Lingnan culture. There were on-site demonstrations of Lingnan paper cutting, Chinese New Year couplet calligraphy and other traditional arts by folk artisans. The Bazaar re-created an authentic Chinese New Year atmosphere for local consumers in the Zhujiang (Pearl River) New Town.

Christine Deng, Guangzhou Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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