China's retail and catering sectors enjoyed a bumper Lunar New Year holiday week, with revenues rising almost one-third from 2020 levels thanks to strong orders from staycationing consumers, the commerce ministry said on Wednesday. Sales by key retail and catering companies, including online, came in at 821 billion yuan ($127 billion) from Feb. 11-17, the Ministry of Commerce said. That was up 28.7% from the Lunar New Year holiday in 2020, when the coronavirus started to spread across China, and up 4.9% from 2019 levels. Wuhan, a city of 11 million where the virus was first identified in December 2019, was placed into lockdown for the 2020 Lunar New Year holiday and commercial activity in many other major cities was curtailed. In 2021, Chinese authorities called on migrant workers to skip their annual trip home and stay put for Lunar New Year, to lighten transportation loads and prevent a potential resurgence in infections. The largely heeded call saw a sharp fall in travel and a spike in cinema visits. "The nation's consumer market has shown many new characteristics and changes," the ministry said on the last day of the holiday, adding that its monitoring had shown a trend towards contactless and safe consumption. Digital home appliance sales were up 29.9% compared with last year's holiday, while sales of clothes more than doubled and those of fitness equipment on some e-commerce platforms were up by almost half. The best performer was the jewellery sector, however. Noting this year's Spring Festival coincided with Valentine's Day on Feb. 14, the ministry said jewellery sales were up 160.8%, with sales of flowers, beauty products and communication equipment also "particularly vigorous". Orders on some online takeaway platforms more than doubled and were especially high on Lunar New Year Eve, it said, noting increased use of digital red envelopes as an online substitute for the traditional giving of money in such packets. Retail and wholesale prices of consumer staples such as pork, beef and eggs, were largely stable over the holiday period, the ministry added. ($1 = 6.4542 Chinese yuan renminbi) REUTERS
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