A shopper picks up fruit at a supermarket in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province. (JIA MINJIE/FOR CHINA DAILY)
China's retail sector recovered rapidly in the first three quarters after the country optimized its COVID-19 response measures, and services, especially the contact-based segment, benefited the most, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.
The contribution rate of consumption to economic growth reached 83.2 percent, the NBS said, a significant increase over the same period last year.
Consumption of services played an important supportive role in contributing to economic growth, the NBS said, adding that the growth rate of the services sector was relatively high.
Retail sales touched 34.21 trillion yuan ($4.69 trillion) in the first nine months, up 6.8 percent year-on-year. The corresponding figure for retail sales, excluding cars, stood at 30.73 trillion yuan.
In September, total retail sales reached 3.98 trillion yuan, up 5.5 percent year-on-year. The growth rate was 0.9 percentage point faster than in August, NBS data showed.
"After the easing of pandemic controls, economic operations in the country have returned to normal. People have traveled more frequently and the catering sector has become increasingly popular. Services consumption has rebounded and recovered relatively quickly," said Sheng Laiyun, deputy head of the NBS.
From January to September, per capita service consumption expenditure increased by 14.2 percent year-on-year, accounting for 46.1 percent of their total per capita consumption expenditure. This was an increase of 2 percentage points compared with the same period last year, the NBS said.
"In such a context, we can see that the economy is on a recovery track. Spurred by a series of consumption-stimulating policies, China's consumption market, especially service consumption, has rebounded and recovered well," Sheng said.
The NBS, he added, will further improve the statistical survey system of service consumption and the entire consumption market.
In July, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee held a meeting to analyze the economic situation of the country and planned economic road map for the second half of the year.
The meeting highlighted that China would actively expand domestic demand, and consumption would play a fundamental role in driving economic growth.
China's huge consumption potential is expected to be supported by a population of more than 1.4 billion. The country's consumer market has strong resilience and abundant vitality, and its long-term fundamentals remain unchanged, industry experts said.
"Since the pandemic, online consumption has become increasingly prevalent, and many Chinese consumers, including the elderly, have further strengthened their habit of making purchases online," said Fu Yifu, a senior researcher at the Star Atlas Institute of Finance.
"The government may help create more consumption scenarios, upgrade consumption experiences and encourage consumers' willingness to spend more. For instance, the local governments of some regions could support the growth of the nighttime economy to help extend consumption hours or launch themed shopping festivals that integrate with local cultures," Fu said.