Retail sales surge in China

22 October 2010

BEIJING: Retail sales have posted a double-digit improvement in China this year, boosting product categories from automotive to luxury.

According to the state's National Bureau of Statistics, total retail revenues climbed 18.3% year-on-year in the opening nine months of 2010, surpassing 11tr yuan ($1.7tr; €1.2tr; £1.1tr).

This incorporated an 18.7% leap in urban areas, hitting 9.6tr, and a 15.8% increase among rural shoppers, to 1.5tr yuan.

Indeed, the pace of expansion reached 18.8% in September, considerably ahead of the 16.6% five-year average.

Matt Robinson, senior economist at Moody's Analytics, argued popular habits are changing as people now enjoy higher levels of affluence.

"Rising incomes, improving labor market conditions, strong credit growth and healthy public spending have lifted retail sales over recent quarters," he said.

Richard Lee, PepsiCo China's chief marketing officer, similarly suggested a "convergence of great forces", like urbanisation and digitisation, were fuelling a unique situation.

"We have to look at China differently," he said.

"What is happening here from an economic, cultural, political and business standpoint is unprecedented. We have to look forward and take risks - we can't adapt the same old model."

Despite intense competition between multinational and domestic operators, Lee asserted American brands would retain a specific cachet.

"US culture and influence will persist in China for a long time," he predicted.

Another major growth industry in 2010 so far has been the auto sector, witnessing a 34.9% annual surge during the first three quarters of 2010.

German carmaker Audi has set ambitious targets in China, Dietmar Voggenreiter, who heads up its local arm, revealed.

"Over the entire year, we will deliver well over 200,000 cars to customers in China," he said, taking the company's overall figures past one million.

"We intend to reach the second million within the next three years," he continued.

Spirits group Pernod Ricard also saw Chinese returns jump by almost a third in the last quarter, a sign of hardening demand for premium goods across the board.

"China is able now, with a rising middle class, to start thinking about all the bourgeois things, about life of the next-door neighbour," said David Tang, founder of luxury specialist Shanghai Tang.

"With the rising middle class, status comes to mind. They need to know what Mr Wong has next door. Is his refrigerator as big as mine? Is his bicycle as smooth as mine? Is the car he is buying more expensive than mine?"

Data sourced from Shanghai Daily; additional content by Warc staff