China's retail sales of consumer goods, a major indicator of a country's consumption strength, picked up further in the first quarter of this year as the economy recovered from the impact of COVID-19.
In the first quarter, retail sales increased 33.9 percent year on year to 10.5 trillion yuan (about 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars), in contrast to the decline seen in the first quarter of 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Friday.
Average first-quarter growth over the last two years was 4.2 percent, said the NBS.
The rapid growth was the result of a low comparison base, combined with enhanced confidence in spending as well as the effect of pro-consumption measures, said NBS spokesperson Liu Aihua.
"China's consumer market has weathered the test of COVID-19 and revealed its strength in scale, and the consumption upgrade trend remains unchanged," said Liu, adding that further improvement in resident incomes will continue to enhance the country's ability to consume.
In March, retail sales surged 34.2 percent year on year and were 12.9 percent higher than the 2019 level. The two-year average growth was 6.3 percent.
The catering industry reported a 75.8 percent year-on-year increase in first-quarter revenue, as the hardest-hit sector continues to recover from COVID-19 disruptions.
As people now feel safe dining out, catering revenue in March has seen a two-year average growth of 0.9 percent. It is the first time the monthly figure has shown positive growth from its 2019 level, Liu noted.
Online shopping maintained steady growth, with online retail sales rising 29.9 percent year on year in the first quarter. Offline business was also robust as pent-up demand was unleashed, with sales revenues in major brick-and-mortar stores surging more than 40 percent, NBS data shows.
China aims to expand its economy by over 6 percent this year and will take measures to expand consumption, according to this year's government work report.
As China pushes its new development paradigm of "dual circulation," which allows the domestic and overseas markets to reinforce each other with the domestic market as the mainstay, the country's consumer market is expected to recover further, said Liu.