With Manufacturing Down, China Needs It’s Residents to Buy, Buy, Buy

China’s abundance of cheap labor has often been cited as one of the reasons it has become the manufacturing mecca of the world. The abundance of low-cost goods flooding out of the country, and out into the international market, created an economic boom that has completely transformed the east coast of the massive country.

But with demand for Chinese products falling, the country is desperately trying to increase consumer spending within. What better way to do that than by creating reasons for people to go shopping?

China’s state-run newspaper, The China Daily, reports the country’s non-manufacturing activity (so, it’s economy not related to the manufacturing industry) was quite healthy at the end of 2015  – perhaps this is supposed to be a comfort to counter all of the articles in the international press that have recently focused on China’s “slowing economy.”

“Industries related to household consumption, such as retail, postal and express delivery services, storage and distribution services, as well as Internet software, all expanded due to a holiday and year-end promotion sales boom,” China Daily reported, referring to information provided by the National Bureau of Statistics.

The “holiday and year-end promotions sales boom” the article mentioned must be referring to two year-end “holidays” dedicated solely to shopping. November 11 — commonly noted as 11/11 — is known as Single’s Day in China, and has been transformed into the country’s biggest shopping day of the year by the e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Yes. Alibaba basically created this “holiday” to encourage people to buy things. Because if you’re so unlucky as to be single, you might as well buy yourself a nice present to make up for it.

“Singles’ Day was originally a mock celebration in China for people not in relationships. But Alibaba in 2009 co-opted the event into a consumption-fest for all, featuring steep discounts and other promotions aimed at attracting droves of customers online. Alibaba’s sales data have been closely watched as a gauge of Chinese consumption as economic growth slows,” Reuters reported in November.

As I mentioned in November, Chinese shoppers spent more than $14 billion on Single’s Day. That’s far more than American shoppers spend on Black Friday, a sales promotion that many retailers depend on in order to rake in year-end sales profits.

Single’s Day has gone so well that China invented another retail holiday for barely a month later – “12/12”. December 12 — 12/12 — is supposed to be equivalent to Cyber Monday (although I thought 11/11 was that as well…)

Although 12/12 isn’t quite on the same level as 11/11, I’m assuming the promotion must have accounted for even more of the year-end sales mentioned by China Daily.

It’s funny – the USA and China have both created retail holidays to bolster their service economies. For so long, the USA has used Christmas as an excuse for excess consumption. But Christmas shopping isn’t really a thing in China, which does not have strong ties to the holiday. I wonder what kind of retail holiday the Chinese government (or likely, a company) will create next?




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