China's consumer confidence rose for five straight months as of December amid increasing optimism over future personal finances, a private report showed.
The monthly measure of consumer sentiment in China hit 97.5 in December, the highest since June 2012, according to Market News International (MNI), a unit of Deutsche Boerse Group, in a report on Tuesday.
A sales fever on the last day of 2013 and New Year's Day fired up Shanghai's retail consumption almost 10 percent from a year earlier as bargain hunters took advantage of discounts offered by retailers.
Retail sales rose 9.8 percent year on year to CNY4.35 billion (USD712 million) in Shanghai on Tuesday and Wednesday, said a survey by the Shanghai Commission of Commerce of 395 retailers, including Bailian Group, Bright Food Group and Jin Jiang Group.
Chinese consumers are spending a record amounts, with total transaction value via UnionPay over CNY100 billion (USD16b) on New Year's Day alone.
China UnionPay, the nation's central bankcard association, said the value represented an increase of 53 percent year on year, a record growth for recent years.
Transactions in supermarkets and department stores rose 52 percent while household appliances jumped 43 percent.
China can fulfil most of the growth targets set for commerce this year and will accelerate reforms in 2014 to enhance the nation's overall competitiveness, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said on Friday.
Retail sales are expected to grow more than 13 percent this year to CNY23.8 trillion (USD3.8 trillion). Inbound and outbound direct investments are likely to increase 5 percent and 15 percent respectively, all meeting this year's growth targets.
The rise of China's consumer may be one of the country's most important trends over the last decade, but the mainland's retailers aren't the way to play on it, Pimco said.
"A weakened macro environment, coupled with curbs on spending by government bureaucrats, has hit a range of consumer businesses and, in some cases, forced a reassessment of expansion plans," said Richard Flax, an emerging market equity analyst at Pimco, in a note. "Mass retailers, which face oversupply and low pricing power, are likely to continue to struggle," he said.
More Chinese consumers and factory executives say consumer prices are too high in the fourth quarter while bankers and businesses project confidence in the economy, the central bank said on Thursday. The People’s Bank of China survey revealed that 61.6 percent of urban residents said consumer prices are “high and unacceptable,” up 1.8 percentage points from its third-quarter survey.
While China's retail market continues to expand, retailers are at risk of being squeezed in top tier cities by market saturation and e-commerce.
First- and second-tier cities are facing market saturation of luxury goods, say two researchers at Fitch Ratings via the Shanghai Times. Deceleration in same-store sales growth is being attributed to the government crackdown, weaker economic growth, and the rise of online shopping.
When Walmart entered the mainland Chinese market at the forefront of Shenzhen 17 years ago, a bunch of well-known foreign retailers, such as Parknshop, Carrefour, Aeon and Tesco, followed its step to explore opportunities in the country. However, ever since last year, the top three foreign retail giants Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco started to slow down on expansion or even close stores.
China's retail sales in November rose 13.7 percent to CNY2.1 trillion (USD341.4 billion) from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday. That compares with a 13.3 percent increase in October. From January to November, the total retail sales advanced 13 percent year-on-year to CNY21.13 trillion.
China's third-party mobile payment transactions nearly tripled in the third quarter from three months ago thanks to the higher adoption rates of smartphones and mobile devices.