Five Facts You Might Not Know About China's Lunar New Year

Consumers kick off the Year of the Rooster by ramping up purchases

Author: Man-Chung Cheung

February 20, 2017

The Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, is a countrywide holiday during which much of China shuts down to celebrate. Here are some interesting facts from this year’s event, which marked the start of the Year of the Rooster.

No. 1: Overall Retail Sales See Strong Growth

Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) – People’s Republic of China reported this month that consumption surged during this year’s Lunar New Year holiday, which lasted from January 27 to February 2. Overall retail and catering services sales combined climbed 11.4% year over year, hitting RMB 840.0 billion ($126.44 billion). A range of product categories saw sales increases built on promotional efforts, including consumer electronics, home appliances, jewelry, dining and travel.

No. 2: Holiday Shopping Continues Its Online Shift

According to a recent survey conducted by AdMaster, 54% of Lunar New Year-related spending took place online in 2017, up from 48% a year earlier. The same survey also found that the top five product categories purchased online during the holiday were food and beverages, apparel, fresh food, cosmetics and consumer electronics, in that order. Retail ecommerce site JD.com reported that its sales of imported fresh food increased by 14 times compared with 2016, adding that imported cherries have become popular during the Spring Festival.

No. 3: Travelers Are on the Move

The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) reported that 344 million domestic tourist trips were made over the Spring Festival, an increase of 13.8% over the previous year’s holiday. In all, spending on tourism jumped by 15.9% year over year. A joint report from research institution China Tourism Academy and online travel service provider Ctrip found that 6.15 million people in China visited a foreign country during the holiday, spending over RMB 100 billion ($15.1 billion) while abroad.

No. 4: Mobile Internet Dominates, as Always

According to AdMaster’s survey, smartphones dominated both PCs and television as the favored medium during Lunar New Year. Survey respondents spent an average of 4.17 hours on their smartphones during the holiday, compared with just 2.3 hours on PCs and 2.12 hours watching television. However, that was only a slight increase from the amount of time that respondents normally spent using their smartphones.

No. 5: Digital Hongbao Exchanges Set Record

WeChat users sent a total of 14.2 billion digital red envelopes, or hongbao, on Lunar New Year’s Eve alone, up 75.7% from the preceding year. By the end of the holiday period, 46 billion hongbao were sent via the messaging platform. Competing digital payment service Alipay reported that, by Lunar New Year’s Eve, 168 million users had completed a hongbao promotion that required them to collect five different images of the Chinese character for fortune.