'Tis not season for sales this year

Updated:2017-12-25 08:50:22

  As the Christmas holiday arrives and Christians around the world celebrate and share gifts, most Chinese mark the day as not unlike any other. Businesses and customers this year, too, may have experienced a slower shop-till-you-drop environment than in the past for a variety of reasons.

  China has long been driving the world's Christmas economy, with Yiwu, Zhejiang province, mass producing every conceivable Christmas-themed product.

  This year, all that cheer does not seem to be translating into higher sales in China, said market sources and consumers.

  Back-to-back online shopping festivals on Nov 11 (11-11) and Dec 12(12-12)-with Black Friday and Cyber Monday thrown in between-appear to have tired shoppers such as Xiao Xuanwei, 24, a bank teller in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

  "Well, 11-11 and 12-12 have cleaned out my savings-I've already shopped till I dropped. I'd rather spend Christmas with my smartphone because I don't want to hang out with friends either. Gathering friends, selecting a restaurant that everyone likes, managing party games-heck, that's a pain," Xiao said.

  Businesses, having given their all to online galas, appear to be exhausted as well and going through the motions, market insiders said.

  Moreover, consumers are busy at work.

  Zheng Hao, 23, a postgraduate student in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, said he had no special plans for Christmas this year. "It's just another day. I don't really have any special feelings for such festivals, especially when there is no short break from the university."

  Also, unlike in the past when only three major holidays-Spring Festival, Labor Day and the National Day holiday-marked the year, Chinese now have more short cultural breaks in the form of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day and Dragon Boat Festival. So, Christmas, as Zheng said, "is just another day".

  China's economic resurgence and strong global standing have also stoked pride and interest in Chinese culture, values and traditions among the millennials, weaning them off the urge to copy or revere all things Western, especially Western brands, according to a survey.

  An AT Kearney survey report said Chinese consumers are growing increasingly loyal to domestic brands, which don't do a Christmas-themed hard sell (although internet marketplace JD organized an online "carnival", which is just a fraction of the scale of 11-11 or 12-12).

  To be sure, some young adults, such as Wang Hejun, 24, a postgraduate student in Beijing, do like to live it up during Christmas. "This year, I plan to dine out at Solana," a Western-styled exotic shopping plaza that is known for Christmas culinary delights. "I may not go on a shopping spree though."

  For Christian expatriates, who do enjoy online shopping festivals, Christmas continues to be a largely religious affair that is punctuated with customary shopping for imported turkey and the like at certain supermarkets, a service at a local church gathering and a get-together at homes or restaurants offering festive-themed meals, said an expatriate media professional in Beijing.

  Expatriate students and staff at international schools in China take part in on-campus charity bazaars in which they buy Christmas-themed candy, gifts and other paraphernalia. But this year, they appear to be too busy with mobile games on weekends. Campus bans on hand-held devices that facilitate mobile payments via QR codes appear to have somewhat dampened Christmas sales, said a teacher who requested anonymity.

  Fan Chen and Lan Linfeng contributed to this story.