In this COVID-19 ravaged world, this rebound in China is a ray of hope for the rest of the world.
By Sumeet Chander
We are in the midst of a five-day holiday for Labor Day (May 1-5) in China this year. For the last few years, May holiday used to be a three-day break but the authorities took a decision to add two extra days to the Labor day holiday late last year. The intent was to give a boost to tourism and domestic consumption. In the post-COVID-19 world that we inhabit, this decision could not have been more prescient.
Most of the local authorities across China are trying to encourage domestic tourism and consumption by offering shopping vouchers or discounts on admission tickets to different destinations. Having seen the crowds in the last few days in Shanghai, I can safely say that authorities could have done without some of these steps. People all over China are trying to make up for the time they lost to COVID-19.
And, those who thought Shanghai (and the rest of China) is in the middle of a sharp slowdown, would have to re-visit their presumptions. It is pretty obvious that Shanghai is in a frenzy of revenge (or rebound if you are inclined towards political correctness) shopping/socializing.
Take my social calendar (non-work related) for an example ? it is usually devoid of much activity barring a dinner or two over a month. I am completely booked for the five days. I was triple booked yesterday and had to excuse myself from a wedding celebration and drinks with my exercise/running buddies. I ended up going for lunch though, with friends at one of the restaurants in Jing An, downtown Shanghai.
People who are familiar with Shanghai know Jing An as one of the swanky shopping and eating areas of Shanghai. All the restaurants there seemed packed to the rafters that day and shopping areas were thronging with people, all of them sporting masks. There was a courtyard full of pop-up shops and then there was an open air FitFam exercise class happening there too, with lots of athletic types sans the ubiquitous masks.
Most of the luxury stores, as well as other stores, were doing brisk business. I saw queues outside Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Tory Burch and many others. The idea of queuing up in 30 plus degrees is not my idea of a fun afternoon but I drew solace from the fact that it signified the return of much-needed confidence among consumers. As we know, if consumers are confident then a recovery/growth cannot be far behind.
A lot of pictures of different tourist sites were posted by people on their WeChat moments (akin to Facebook wall), showing huge numbers of people.
We have been tracking China's recovery through different alternative trackers such as electricity consumption/traffic density, etc. All of them have been pointing towards a recovery. The shopping areas abuzz with people was confirmation that a recovery is, indeed, underway. In this COVID-19 ravaged world, this rebound in China is a ray of hope for the rest of the world.
I had written an article when we were in the midst of COVID-19 talking of how we were coping with the outbreak in China. At that time, I had hoped for a recovery of this sort with minimal health issues for our team. I am happy to share that our team of 350 analysts is back at work in Shanghai with no health issues with any of them or people in their vicinity.
We had people stuck in Wuhan and they are also back at work in Shanghai now. It was a slow process of return to normalcy ? it took us more than 6 weeks to get back to near normal state of work. The new normal being that everyone wears masks at work and we take a lot of precautions.
I do hope that all the readers who are stuck in the COVID-19 nightmare are able to step out soon.
(The author is Country Head, Greater China, Evalueserve, a leading analytics partner that helps companies with management and business processes across all functions. Based in Shanghai, Sumeet plans to share his perspective of the world's second-largest economy in a series titled 'The COVID-19 zeitgeist'. This is the first of his post-lockdown articles from Shanghai)