BEIJING - With the approach of Spring Festival for the Year of the Dragon, the more than 1.3 billion people in China have become eager shoppers.
According to Zhejiang China Commodities City Group Co Ltd, a well-known center where general merchandise is distributed from in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, people spend up to 17 percent of annual expenditure to prepare for Spring Festival.
"I have spent 15,000 yuan ($2,370) - about 10 percent of my yearly income - to buy presents for my relatives, especially for my in-laws," said Chen Chang, who works for an insurance company in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.
"To visit relatives without gifts is unthinkable," the 26-year-old said.
The Chinese have a tradition of giving gifts to their relatives during the festival. Among the best-sellers are expensive liquor and well-wrapped boxes of chocolate, ham and other foods.
To express their best wishes for the Lunar New Year and decorate their homes, residents also buy red lanterns, scrolls bearing poetic couplets, paper cuttings and plush dragon toys.
Tesco China, the UK-based grocery and general merchandising retailer that owns 104 outlets in China, predicted the value of the liquor, boxed foods and other merchandise sold during the festival will increase by 10 to 20 percent from 2011.
The French retailer Carrefour China also said that there's an upward trend in the sales of festival decorations and clothes, especially of well-packaged food and health drinks.
Considered to be a "golden week" by the Chinese, Spring Festival is also a golden time for businesses. The shopping boom usually lasts about a month, until Lantern Festival, which falls 15 days after the start of Spring Festival on Monday.
Taobao.com, the Chinese e-commerce giant, is offering a wide variety of festival merchandise to entice shoppers to buy items from its website, where more than 170,000 types of goods related to the Year of the Dragon can be found.
Dong Xiaohua, food sector manager at Taobao.com, said the site's food sales have doubled since December and are likely to proceed at an even faster pace during the Spring Festival shopping season.
Manufacturers are also benefiting.
"We have received many orders from foreign countries such as Thailand and Malaysia," said Long Chang'an, general manager of the Longxiang Toy Factory in Kunming, Yunnan province. "Staff at the factory have to work day and night to meet the demand."
He said the company had about twice as many sales in December than in other months.
According to statistics from the Yiwu administration for industry and commerce, the value of Yiwu's commodity sales reached 51.5 billion yuan in 2011, up 12.95 percent from the previous year.