Letter from China: Feeling pulse of China's vibrant consumption market-Xinhua

Letter from China: Feeling pulse of China's vibrant consumption market

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-15 11:40:15

by Xinhua writer Jiang Tingting

XUCHANG, Henan Province, April 15 (Xinhua) -- If I had not been there myself, I would not have believed that a physical marketplace could be so popular in the internet age.

Frenetic shopping scenes at Pangdonglai supermarkets in central China's Henan Province have made a stir on social media over the past year, piquing my curiosity to uncover the secret behind its immense popularity.

I was there on a weekday evening this month. As soon as I arrived at one of Pangdonglai's supermarkets in Xuchang City, I was amazed to see huge crowds of consumers, pushing shopping carts full of goods ranging from kitchen rolls to toy building blocks.

It was common to see consumers snapping photos and checking in on social media, treating the supermarket as if it were a tourist attraction.

Such a bustling shopping scene is certainly a testament to China's booming consumption, which has played a vital role in bolstering economic development.

"Taro cakes have long been sold out today. You'd better come before noon tomorrow," a smiling shopping assistant told me after I asked her where I could get the cakes -- one of the most popular delicacies sold in Pangdonglai.

Established in 1995, Pangdonglai has grown into an influential retail chain boasting supermarkets, shopping malls and cinemas.

Despite operating solely in Henan, it has earned a prominent reputation throughout the country. Its reputation is such that business leaders like Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun have visited its head office to learn about its operations.

Exceptional service is the hallmark of Pangdonglai. Customers can return any item they are not satisfied with, even if they have consumed most of it. Specifically, if customers are unhappy with a movie they watched, they can receive a 50 percent refund within 20 minutes after the movie ends.

Here, visitors can enjoy incredibly high-quality customer service. The entrance and parking lot offer self-service pet storage stations with animal drinking water and excrement bags. Each floor has self-service water dispensers and several types of shopping carts to cater to different groups of people.

"You can always trust Pandonglai," said Ruan Xiaofan, a local resident, who just bought all her home appliances from Pangdonglai for her new apartment.

"If you experience any issue with the appliances, Pangdonglai will send staff to fix them. You don't need to worry at all," she added.

Pangdonglai is also known for its generous treatment of employees, including offering competitive salaries and excellent benefits. This fosters a culture where employees are motivated to deliver exceptional service to consumers. As a result, excellent service attracts more consumers, thus initiating a virtuous cycle.

The shopping craze has also yielded benefits for other sectors. Data showed that there has been a significant increase in the number of tourists to Xuchang, with the hotel occupancy rate exceeding 90 percent in downtown areas during the Qingming festival earlier this month.

The city's other attractions, such as the Baling Bridge and Wenfeng Tower, have also gained popularity thanks to visitors who want to make the most of their Xuchang trip.

Not only in Xuchang's Pangdonglai, I also experienced the bustling atmosphere in many other marketplaces including night fairs in Kaifeng City to big shopping plazas in first-tier cities.

"Our monthly sales have exceeded 1 million yuan (about 140,845 U.S. dollars) on average since the start of the year, posting a steady growth from a year earlier," a saleswoman working for a clothing boutique in downtown Beijing told me.

However, to survive and thrive in China's highly competitive retail market is no easy task. I'm not sure how long the frenzy in Pangdonglai will last, but one thing is certain: China's consumption engine will keep roaring.