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2017 Chinese New Year Sales: Chengdu and the Sichuan Province

Largely focused on Chengdu, the Sichuan province offered a wide range of retail and entertainment options throughout the Spring Festival period. With sales up in specialty streets, shopping malls and online, there was also a surge in visitor numbers to many cinemas, museums, restaurants and festivals, while ride sharing proved an ever more popular means of travelling throughout the holiday period.

Photo: Teeming with Spring Festival visitors: Chengdu’s famous Kuanzhai Xiangzi alleyways. (Xinhua News Agency)
Teeming with Spring Festival visitors: Chengdu’s famous Kuanzhai Xiangzi alleyways.
Photo: Teeming with Spring Festival visitors: Chengdu’s famous Kuanzhai Xiangzi alleyways. (Xinhua News Agency)
Teeming with Spring Festival visitors: Chengdu’s famous Kuanzhai Xiangzi alleyways.

Overall, figures from the Ministry of Commerce showed that, from New Year's Eve to the sixth day of the Chinese New Year (27 January-2 February 2017), the total takings of retail and catering enterprises across the mainland exceeded RMB840 billion, up 11.4% over the same period last year. Traditional New Year goods, eco-friendly food, seasonal clothing, gold and silver ornaments, smart energy-saving home appliances and several new digital products were among the best-selling items for 2017.

As part of the survey, staff at the HKTDC's mainland offices - Beijing, Dalian, Qingdao, Xi’an, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Chongqing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Fuzhou and Shenzhen - selected a number of representative local shopping centres and monitored their performance before, during and after the Chinese New Year sales period in order to ascertain just how their respective local consumer markets fared this year.

For Chengdu and the Sichuan province as a whole, Spring Festival sales were characterised by a number of key developments:

Catering: A number of food and beverage operators, including Laofangzhi, Hongxing Restaurant and Daronghe, actively set out to provide new styles of dining experiences, while maintaining a high standard of Spring Festival catering. Overall, far more attention was paid to creating just the right ambience, with an added focus on cultural style, personalised service and customer engagement. Added to this were a number of new elements, including elderly-friendly dining, entertainment, and cultural and family heritage, all of which saw turnover in the sector soar by 9.6% year-on-year.

Bricks-and-Mortar Stores: There was a significant growth in footfall and sales revenue for many of the large city centre shopping centres and malls, including IFS, Joy City, Tianfu Cade and Global Center. Growth here, though, was outstripped by a number of the specialty streets, such as Tai Koo Li and Kuanzhai Xiangzi (wide and narrow alleys), which collectively posted an increase of more than 12% year-on-year.

Throughout the holiday period, many of the commercial districts attracted considerable crowds. This was partly down to the fact that the majority of the city’s shopping malls, commercial complexes, specialty commercial streets and central shopping districts staged a variety of festive activities, including a number of catwalk shows. As well as boosting sales, these special events enhanced the standing of these sites as one-stop destinations for shopping, dining and entertainment.

Over the spring festival period, the sales from eight of Chengdu’s leading retail outlets and supermarkets, including the Wangfujing department store, totalled RMB410 million, a 71% increase year-on-year. In Zigong, the third largest city in the Sichuan province, more than 264,000 shoppers visited its 10 leading retail centres, an increase of more than 10% year-on-year. In the nine other cities where the sales figures of local retailers were monitored ̶  Neijiang, Guang'an, Garzê (Ganzi), Yibin, Meishan, Dazhou, Nanchong, Zigong and Guangyuan ̶  retailers saw increases of 25%, 18.9%, 18%, 15%, 16.5%, 13.6%, 12.1%, 12% and 11.8%, respectively.

Notably, several of the shopping centres that were newly-opened in 2016 in a number of these cities fared particularly well. The average daily sales of the Ito Yokado supermarket in Meishan, for instance, were over RMB1 million, while Guangyuan’s Wanda Plaza attracted 549,000 visits and sales of RMB31.414 million. In a number of cities, notably Suining, Ya’an and Ziyang, spending was primarily focused on food, New Year’s goods, seasonal clothing, shoes, hats and jewellery.

Healthier eating was another notable trend this year. In line with this, a premium specialty agricultural products online shopping carnival was held for the third time in Chengdu, with a range of green food - including organic rice from Chongzhou - selling particularly quickly. Demand for high-end, branded wines was also up, with many people clearly adopting the mantra: “Drink a little less, drink a little better and stay a little healthier.”

There was also, clearly, an increased demand for higher quality goods. Among the most popular items were environmentally-friendly, smart products, including air purifiers, smart TVs, Virtual Reality (VR) and  Augmented Reality (AR) products, remote-control model airplanes and robot floor cleaners. Similarly, the VR museums in Luzhou and Suining proved particularly popular.

Tourism: Throughout this year’s Spring Festival period, the most visited cities in the province were Chengdu, Leshan, Guangyuan, Liangshan, Ya’an and Nanchong. Overall, a total of 5.573 million tourists visited the province during the Spring Festival holiday, resulting in tourism receipts of more than RMB10 billion.

Museums. This year, there was a notable increase in museum visitor numbers. According to official figures, the total number of visits to just four museums ̶  the Wuhou Temple, the Jinsha Site Museum, the Du Fu Cottage Museum and the Chengdu Museum - exceeded the one million mark over the seven days of the Spring Festival.

The Wuhou Temple Fair: Visiting Chengdu’s Wuhou Temple for a traditional Spring Festival experience has now become a popular option with many tourists and local residents. This year, the temple’s annual fair attracted more than 550,000 visitors.

Jinsha Sun Festival: As of 2 February, the site’s annual Sun Festival had attracted more than 300,000 people.

Du Fu Cottage Museum: This year, the museum received more than 110,000 visitors over the Spring Festival period, a 28% increase compared to 2016.

Chengdu Museum: The site attracted 20,000 people per day over the five days it opened during the Spring Festival period.

New Travel Trends: The practice of sharing bicycles and electric cars, as  promoted by Mobike, OFO and Didi Hitch, really took off this year. In Chengdu, the introduction of dedicated high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes was in line with the local government’s support for shared travel initiatives. According to estimates from Didi, the popular ride-sharing company, 8.4 million passengers took advantage of its services during the Spring Festival period, an increase of 342% over last year. Overall, the rapid growth of ride-sharing was seen as an important factor in the drop in the number of car journeys taken on the province’s roads.

As a further step, the Chengdu government is now said to be exploring the feasibility of shared deliveries to solve the last mile fulfilment problem for online shoppers in the more rural districts. Typically, many migrant workers and other employees working away from home make advance online orders for food, clothing, home appliances, health products and New Year gifts (some of which, such as treadmills, can be very bulky). Thanks to home delivery services, these rural consumers can enjoy the same ease of access to the wide range of goods on many shopping platforms as their urban counterparts.

In the case of bricks-and-mortar retailers, many of them actually saw their sales pick up thanks to the surge in popularity of the online-to-offline (O2O) sales model. Many such retailers have looked to improve their shopping environment, while enhancing the consumer experience, boosting their online marketing, initiating vigorous sales promotions and opening for business as usual throughout the holiday period. Coupled with the tangible benefit of allowing consumers to see and touch goods prior to purchase, this has seen conventional retailers successfully increase both visitor numbers and sales.

Festive Deals: Many of the promotions held throughout the festive period proved highly successful. Chengdu’s 21st China (Sichuan) New Year Shopping Festival, held from 10-24 January, for instance, was credited with spurring RMB3.52 billion worth of sales. A number of E-commerce promotions proved similarly successful, with the Tianfu Wangjiaohui (Sichuan Online Fair), Yibintao and Qinba Zaixian (Qinba Online) all extending their online sales activities this year. One particularly long-lasting event - the Chengdu 2017 New Year Culture and Art Month - ran from 11 January to 15 February.

Chengdu Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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