A consumer scans an Alipay QR code to pay for the order at a self-service restaurant in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. (Photo/Xinhua)
The consumption sector has been gradually recovering from the novel coronavirus epidemic, as the central authorities called for efforts to further release demand in the domestic market and boost household spending.
In mid-March, sales by key retailers monitored by the Ministry of Commerce increased 7 percent from mid-February. In the same period, the sales on some e-commerce platforms climbed more than 30 percent, according to the ministry.
Wang Bin, head of the ministry's department of market operation and consumption, said at a news conference on Saturday that the progress made in companies' work resumption could be attributed to the government's favorable policies and measures.
Though companies are still facing difficulties like a shortage of capital and personnel, the businesses will be further restored to normal as a series of policies are about to be implemented, according to Wang.
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, on Friday presided over a leadership meeting to analyze the COVID-19 response and economic performance.
The meeting called for efforts to release demand in the domestic market, resume the operation of malls and markets in an orderly way, and ensure normal operation of the service sector, with effective prevention and control measures in place.
Efforts should be made to expand household consumption, reasonably raise public consumption and activate brick-and-mortar businesses while maintaining the prevailing trend of new online consumption.
Sales of major retailers have risen, while the prices of major daily necessities have declined recently, Wang said, citing data from the ministry.
By Friday, sales at large chain supermarkets and convenience stores had exceeded that of the same period last year. Over 95 percent of department stores had reopened by Friday, and their sales had grown and recovered to about 50 percent of that in the same period last year.
On Friday, the wholesale price of vegetables declined 16.5 percent from the end of February, and the price of pork fell 7.4 percent from its peak in mid-February.
The Ministry of Commerce has asked the regions deemed at low risk from the contagion to promptly remove their excessive control measures, in order to make life more convenient for the people.
The ministry will guide enterprises to implement classified measures to prevent and control the disease, and foster a safe environment for consumers, Wang said.
It will guide local bureaus to boost consumption based on local conditions, and restore the market to normalcy as soon as possible, he added.
Home quarantine has further fostered consumers' online shopping habits. According to a recent report released by the global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen, 89 percent of the surveyed said they will be more willing to make online purchases for daily necessities or fresh products once the pandemic is over.
Justin Sargent, president of Nielsen China, said the epidemic has quickly revolutionized how the Chinese consumers think about their health, and changed their shopping behavior.
"It is both a challenge and an opportunity … Brand owners should be continually embracing change while exploring new business strategies," he said.