The prolonged holiday that ended Thursday gave domestic consumption fresh impetus, with spending bouncing back to new heights as coronavirus-imposed impacts on the economy are on course to be further curtailed.
The eight-day hybrid vacation, combining the National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holidays, saw expenditures at tourist sites and hospitality facilities jump 83 percent and 71 percent, respectively, from Oct 1 to 3 compared with the May Day holiday, according to WeChat Pay, the mobile wallet of messaging app WeChat, which has over 1 billion users.
Spending in hotels and catering businesses soared 71 percent and 30 percent, respectively, compared with the May Day holiday, when most domestic merchants had just returned to business normalcy following COVID-related closures this year.
From Oct 1 to 7, transactions via China UnionPay, the bank card network, grew 6.3 percent year-on-year to reach 2.16 trillion yuan ($318 billion). Transaction volume on Oct 1 alone surpassed 330 billion yuan, up 15.5 percent, the company said. Regions recording the fastest growth in expenditures were the Tibet, Xinjiang Uygur and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions.
Transaction volume via WeChat Pay, compared with the May holiday, surged over 30 percent in department stores and supermarkets, the payment firm said, and the number of visitors to domestic duty-free stores more than doubled in the first three days.
"The recovery of domestic consumption remained robust," said Jason Yu, general manager of consultancy Kantar Worldpanel in China. "Many people treated the combined holidays as a substitute for Spring Festival, which had been effectively jinxed by the pandemic. That opened up huge potential for consumer buying."
Small-town youth, an internet term referring to the younger generation in less affluent cities and towns, are shaping up as the backbone of the buying revival. In the first three days of October, residents of third-tier cities and smaller areas recorded transactions via WeChat Pay up 50 percent higher than in the May Day holiday.
They are also the most generous spenders on tourism. Fliggy, the online travel arm of Alibaba Group, listed them as 60 percent of all their travelers, and said their travel expenditures advanced 50 percent year-on-year.
Startup mom and pop businesses are finding root in smaller places, with 48 percent of the buyers of electronic devices used by merchants coming from smaller cities. Also, 53 percent of such appliances, from popcorn machines to sausage grillers, were sold at smaller, county-level markets, Alibaba said.
Meanwhile, purchases of imported goods continued to enjoy an uptick following coronavirus-caused setbacks. Spending in the first four days of the holiday on Tmall Global, an e-commerce site dedicated to overseas items, rose 40 percent compared with the May Day holiday period.
Sought-after items included an eyedrop product by Japan's Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, whose sales exploded by 3,000 times compared with the first several days in May.
On sister site Kaola, cosmetics and skin care products were competing for shoppers' attention during the same time period. Sales of Hong Kong-based beauty retailer Sasa reported 334 percent growth, and a Singaporean counterpart, Novela, expanded 412 percent.
"These data suggest the insatiable appetite of Chinese consumers for high-quality products, in the temporary absence of outbound travel and surrogate buyers," Yu said. "This will be an encouraging sign for the upcoming China International Import Expo, scheduled for November."