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China's festive retail sales up 13.8%
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China's spending enthusiasm over the Lunar New Year holiday seemed undimmed by the global financial crisis, figures from the Ministry of Commerce showed on January 31.

Retail sales rose 13.8 percent to 290 billion yuan (US$42.4 billion), from 255 billion yuan over last year's week-long Lunar New Year holiday, or Spring Festival.

The robust spending was helped by sales promotions in major cities as well as government subsidies for farmers to purchase home appliances.

Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, organized a shopping campaign with about 10,000 companies offering discounts that added up to 400 million yuan, the ministry said.

Shopping malls in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Shandong had promotions, free gifts and lucky draws to lure customers, who were willing to spend for the China's major holiday despite the economic downturn.

"There are more customers than usual. That's totally unexpected. I feel shorthanded on my own," said a salesgirl surnamed Yang, on duty Saturday at Sogo department story in Beijing.

A sample survey by Beijing Commercial Information and Consultation Center of the Municipal Bureau of Commerce showed 100 catering, supermarket and department store companies in the city reported total sales up by 150 million yuan, an average of 8 percent, over the past week.

Sales of home appliances in rural areas surged as a result of government subsidies.

The government began in 2007 to grant a 13-percent subsidy to farmers to buy colour TVs, refrigerators, mobile phones, washing machines and freezers. The program is in effect in 12 provinces.

The ministry said leading home appliance producers supporting the program saw sales rise 25.6 percent during the week-long holiday.

Traditional purchases of food, cigarettes, liquor and wine, fireworks continued to grow, the ministry said.

Food sales at major retailers rose 23 percent, while beverage sales increased 17.5 percent and combined sales of cigarettes, liquor and wine were up 14.7 percent.

Meanwhile, China's three major telecom operators estimated that a record 18 billion text messages were sent from Jan. 25 to 31.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2009)

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