Jewelers at shopping malls across Beijing are witnessing a gold rush as residents spooked by inflation fears look to protect their money.
Statistics from Beijing Caibai, the city's largest jewelry store, show sales of gold and other jewelry have totaled about 4 billion yuan ($608 million) so far this year, a 70-percent increase year-on-year.
Wang Chunli, general manager, told METRO that hundreds of customers are lining up outside every day to buy gold accessories, such as necklaces and rings. To cope with demand, the store has even introduced a string-weave service, she said, adding: "We've also arranged experienced staff to be on duty and increased the number of security guards."
After seeing the enthusiasm for gold investment, insiders predict prices will continue to rise this year.
Zhou Xiangrui, deputy general manager of Guo Hua, an established gold and jewelry store, even suggested that the surging demand could set a new record, saying: "The price is estimated to increase by 10 percent this year."
The price has already reached 338 yuan a gram at Caibai and 375 yuan a gram at Beijing branches of Chow Tai Fook and Chow Tai Seng, according to data from cngold.org, a popular gold investment website.
Concern over the volatile conditions in the Middle East and the debt crises in Europe could also impact gold prices, said Ji Zhiguo, an analyst the Beijing Gold Trade Center. "This year we might see some investors purchasing more than 10 kilograms of gold bars again," he said. "A booming gold market coupled with a stable price increase could prompt more individuals to rush in and invest."
Gold sales in large shopping malls citywide increased by at least 40 percent year-on-year during the first two months of 2011, Legal Mirror reported.
According to China Central Television, about 40 investors are rushing to purchase gold bars every day at the Wang Feng shopping mall in the Xinjiekou area, with most snapping up several kilograms at a time.
Wang Qiming, 34, who lives in Haidian district, said he has purchased both gold bars in malls and paper gold online. "The capital has limits on house and car purchases, and it might be hard to preserve the value of my assets if I save cash in a bank account. So, I've started to focus on gold investment," he said, explaining that he plans to spend 300,000 yuan on 100 grams of gold bars.
"Stock markets change very fast and are not stable," said Wang. "Gold investment seems much safer."
A report released by the World Gold Council at the end of 2010 said China is the strongest market for gold investment and gold accessory purchase.