By Wang Xinyuan
Gold products were hot ticket items on the last day of the Chinese New Year holiday, with buyers snapping them up as gifts and investments.
Caishikou Department Store, also called Cai Bai, a well-known retailer of gold and jewelry in Beijing, saw another busy day as hundreds of people crowded in front of the gold counter to select products such as bracelets, necklaces and earrings.
On the third floor, where gold tiger figures were on sale, people lined up waiting for their turn to enter the room. Seven or eight saleswomen were busy helping customers inside.
"I am buying it for myself as a New Year gift, as this year is my benmingnian," said a 36-year-old man surnamed Fu. In the Chinese zodiac, each year is associated with one of 12 traditional animals, and a person's birth year – benmingnian – comes once every 12 years.
Fu selected a red thread woven bracelet with golden tiger figures on it. He said the tigers would bring him good luck.
Golden figures of 99.9 percent purity were selling for 288 yuan ($42.17) per gram, while those of 99.6 percent purity were selling for 269 yuan ($39.39) per gram at Cai Bai.
Apart from holiday gifts, people tend to buy gold bullion as an investment. About a dozen people crowded in front of a 5-meter-long counter for gold and silver bullion on the second floor, inquiring about prices.
"It's better than having the money go nowhere," said a man surnamed Yang who had just bought a 50-gram gold bullion of 99.9 percent purity for 251 yuan ($36.75) per gram.
A lady surnamed Zhang bought a 20-gram gold bullion for her 1-year-old child, and said she intended to buy the child bullion for each birthday because gold holds its value against inflation in the long run and in times of uncertainty.
The price of gold bullion is based on real time offers on the London Metal Exchange and the Shanghai Futures Ex-change, said a saleswoman at Cai Bai. Customers can also sell back their gold at a counter nearby at a base price or 8 yuan ($1.17) less than the retail price, with a service fee of 2 yuan ($0.29) also deducted, she said.
"I am buying the Expo memento bullion just for my personal collection," said Wang Youfeng, a shopper at the store.
A Beijing Youth Daily reporter sold gold products worth 80,000 yuan ($11,713.03) within two hours when she served as a saleswoman at Cai Bai, the paper reported Thursday.
On February 14, when Valentine's Day and the Chinese Lunar New Year coincided, sales hit a record high of 40 million yuan ($5.86 million), said Niu Jingqi, marketing manager of Cai Bai. It is estimated gold jewelry sales during the holiday will finish up 30 percent year-on-year, Niu said. In 2009, Cai Bai saw 4.5 billion yuan ($658.86 million) in sales, up 28 percent year-on-year, she said.
Gold spot prices were $1,111.8 per ounce by GMT 12:27 Friday, according to the World Gold Council. Prices are likely to reach $1,175 per ounce in March and $1,260 by the end of the year, according to a January Caylon report.