Once again, I stalked people at Starbucks to get some quotes on what the average Chinese thinks about Valentine’s Day. The trip tot he flower market was fun. I can’t help but think about the meaning of this day. Everything is Valentine’s Day if you really understand what love is.
A double dose of love for China’s retailers
Retailers in China are hoping to benefit from a double dose of love this year as Chinese Valentine’s Day coincides with the Western one, a rare occurrence.
The Yuen Siu festival in China, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day, falls on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar year. This year that coincides with the tradition celebrated in the West by romantics; the last time that happened was 19 years ago.
Watching a movie and travelling are among the things the Chinese will spend the most on this double Valentine’s Day, according to local media reports. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou were seen as the most popular destinations for couples, with hotel room bookings in general expected to see a massive 200 percent increase, Chinanews.com reported.
“It’s a big thing this year,” said Yen Leng, director of Wharf Holdings, which owns Harbour City, one of Hong Kong’s major shopping malls.
“Valentine’s Day is for everyone and at the high end that means rings, diamonds. Those are actually very popular in Hong Kong this year,” she added. “At the same time, the simpler gifts such as different kinds of chocolates are popular.”
As China’s consumers grow in wealth, days of celebration are increasingly seen as an opportunity to tap into the spending power of locals.
Singles Day, a kind of anti-Valentine’s Day celebration in November, for instance has developed into a huge online shopping day in China akin to Black Friday in the U.S.
Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, for instance saw sales top $5.75 billion on Singles Day last year, breaking its one-day sales record by more than 80 percent.
For the Valentine’s Day celebrations in China, many restaurants were reported to offer special menus combining elements of the Chinese and Western traditions.
China also celebrates Valentine’s Day with a love-themed movie or two. One talked about this year is the ‘Beijing Love Story’, a film about how different Chinese generations look at love, romance and commitment.
“It (Valentine’s Day) is definitely and always has been a time for spending, marketing and outings such as movies and dinners,” said Tang Xiaojing, a 33-year old Beijing resident married for almost eight years. “This is more and more relevant to those born after the 80’s and 90’s since they are brought up with that big Western influence.”
Some retailers, however, were feeling the pain with heavy snow hitting production in Kunming, Yunnan province, a strong flower producing region and subsequently driving up the cost of flowers.
“Flowers are more expensive than last year because of the snow. Twenty red roses, I sell for around 140 yuan ($6.60) and hardly make a profit since their selling price is high,” said Liu Mei, a flower stand owner in China’s capital city. “Last year every red rose is 3 to 4 yuan, and this year it’s 6 to 7 yuan… not a lot of people are buying flowers from me. Expensive,” she added.