China's Retailers Welcome Santa

Celebrating Christmas still isn't a strong tradition in China, but local retailers are enjoying the holiday's secular custom of conspicuous consumption.

Shops in Shanghai are showing their holiday spirit with red and green decorations, fir trees, Christmas carols, and the ever traditional sound of cash registers ringing.

Merchants kicked off the season with a round of sales last weekend, proving they understand the modern meaning of Christianity's biggest festival.

"We began Christmas sales about two weeks ago, and offered discounts of up to 70 percent," said Sun Jie, general manager of Shanghai Parkson Shopping Center.

Following last year's success, Westgate Mall's Isetan has re-launched its Christmas Town, selling Christmas products from 15 domestic and foreign manufacturers.

Toru Kuribayashi, general merchandise manager of the store, said sales in its packaging sector during the Christmas season increased by 70 percent last year, and he expects similar buoyant sales this year.

Other retailers, particularly high-end boutiques, are increasing their marketing efforts with coupons and gifts to ensure a profitable holiday season.

"This week will see Christmas sales reach their peak. From the previous sales record, sales this year will increase by 20 percent," said Huang Zhongjie, spokesman of Shanghai Metro Jin Jiang Shopping Center Co. Ltd.

Battery-operated toys in the shape of Santa Claus, plastic Christmas trees and tree decorations are all big sellers, said Huang.

Metro's best customers are a target group Huang refers to as Horeca - hotels, restaurants, and catering companies that spend big bucks on decorations. This year the store is selling 200 Christmas-related items, almost twice as many as it offered last year.

Many local retailers are expecting this weekend to be extremely busy, with expatriates, white-collar workers and students doing some last-minute shopping.

Young people have adopted the holiday that many older Chinese still ignore, although most consider it a reason to party, overlooking its significance as the birthday of Christ.

"Spring Festival is a time when family members gather to celebrate together - something traditional," said Ji Lingyun, a Fudan University student. "Christmas is a day to celebrate with friends, a romantic and fashionable holiday."

Sending Christmas cards is a must for many local students.

"Though many people like sending electronic greetings by e-mail, cards sales remain good," said Sun of Shanghai Parkson.

While the holiday is growing in stature every year, retailers aren't expecting sales to be anywhere near the level hit during the seven-day National Day holiday last October.

Christmas isn't the only Western holiday enjoyed by local retailers. New Year's celebrations have blossomed as China opens up to the world, with many Chinese giving gifts to their friends and families.

Valentine's Day has become a favorite among the young, who celebrate with the same romantic diners, flowers and candy as Westerners. Even Halloween has become popular in large cities, with bars and nightclubs throwing costume parties.

( December 18, 2001)

In This Series

HK Ocean Park Launches Christmas Festivities

Holidays Spur Tourism With Unique Local Features

Holiday Retail Numbers up

Retail Sales Shoot up 40% During Holidays

Decorating Spring Festival With Flowers and Knowledge

Holiday Cruise Becomes Popular in Hong Kong

Christmas Party Held for Foreigners in Tibet

Santa Helps Firms Have Merry Xmas

Santa Claus Makes Early Appearance in HK

Spring Festival

Chinese New Year: Tradition in Change

Festivals and Holidays



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