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Record Set for Holiday Spending
Once again, holiday economics is proving successful in Shanghai.

Local residents with plenty of free time on their hands and yearend bonuses in their wallets, plus the flood of domestic tourists that entered the city for Spring Festival, have boosted sales at the city's top retail outlets.

Between February 9 and yesterday, Shanghai's 210 leading retailers rang up sales worth 2.03 billion yuan (US$244.5 million) at their 2,000 outlets, an increase of 12.4 percent over the same period last year, the Shanghai Commercial Commission reported last night.

Those are exactly the type of numbers the central government had in mind when it launched its "holiday economics" program in 1999, granting workers three weeklong breaks a year in an effort to encourage consumer spending.

The program has been a boon for shop owners on Nanjing Road E., where record crowds packed the streets in search of bargains. Between last Saturday and yesterday, retailers on Shanghai's best-known shopping street saw sales jump 15.5 percent over last year, while the shopping area around Yuyuan Garden recorded sales 22.6 percent higher than in 2001.

Supermarkets and hypermarkets also cashed in during the vacation, with combined sales of 1.42 billion yuan, an increase 17.8 percent from last year. Department stores, however, saw sales drop 2.7 percent to 444 million yuan.

Most retailers offered discounts and vouchers to bring in the crowds, while some used traditional Spring Festival decorations to attract customers.

"Chinese people are in the mood to splurge during Spring Festival, and we try our best to create a festival atmosphere to lure them in," said Zhou Jianlun, spokesman for Grand Gateway Plaza.

The mall, decorated with 700 strings of firecrackers, erected a 15-meter-high traditional Chinese knot.

Restaurants are perhaps the biggest winners during the one-week break.

The city's top 170 hotels and restaurants served 6,915 tables full of guests on Lunar New Year's Eve, with sales of 7.8 million yuan, up 47.6 percent from a year earlier.

"The big dinner on New Year's Eve is very important for Chinese families. Since I don't have the time and energy to prepare a huge dinner to serve a dozen people, I decided to dine out," said Gu Yuezhen, a retiree.

Dining out on New Year's Eve - an unthinkable act just a decade ago - has become the thing to do in Shanghai, freeing mom from the kitchen and putting smiles on the faces of many local restaurateurs.

The festival is also good for the tourism industry, with 800,000 domestic travelers visiting Shanghai during first two days of the holidays and migrant workers leaving the city to travel home.

Many Shanghai residents also took time during the vacation to get out of the city, heading to local lakes and gardens.

( eastday.com February 15, 2002)

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