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Inside China's fight over the future of zero-COVID
  + stars: | 2022-12-02 | by ( David Stanway | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +10 min
After nearly three years, a significant loosening of zero-COVID measures has been signalled by senior government officials and public health experts. Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said on Thursday that China's health system had "withstood the test" of COVID, allowing further adjustments to state policies. "You can have zero-COVID, but you can't have a healthy economy, and you can have a healthy economy, but you can't have zero-COVID." Laura Yasaitis, a public health expert at the Eurasia Group think-tank who follows China's zero-COVID policies, said fear of the virus likely varied widely across the country, as well as within cities or provinces. Officials have repeatedly said that China's health system would be unable to cope with a surge in cases, with medical resources unevenly distributed across the country.
U.S. shoppers spent $35.27 billion online overall during Cyber Week, the period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. But the modest pickup trounced the paltry 2.9% increase in sales during China's Singles Day, an 11-day shopping festival ending November 11, hosted by Alibaba and other Chinese e-commerce firms. Originally, Singles Day was an unofficial Chinese holiday on Nov. 11 (11/11) to celebrate people who were not in relationships. These days, brands use Singles Day to clear inventory and experiment with new products. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging in China, "it wont be fair to can compare" Singles Day with Cyber Week, Chernev said, as Americans are shopping with fewer restrictions.
[1/3] Epidemic-prevention workers in protective suits stand guard at a residential compound as outbreaks of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue in Beijing, China November 28, 2022. Simmering discontent with COVID prevention policies three years into the pandemic ignited into broader protests in cities thousands of miles apart throughout the weekend. COVID in China keeps spreading despite significant sacrifices made by most of the country's 1.4 billion people to prevent its transmission, adhering to a zero-COVID policy of eradicating all outbreaks that has isolated China from the rest of the world. The lockdowns have exacerbated one of the steepest growth slowdowns China has faced in decades, disrupting global supply chains and roiling financial markets. In Hangzhou, the capital of the eastern Zhejiang province, videos on social media which Reuters could not independently verify showed hundreds of police occupying a large public square on Monday night, preventing people from congregating.
Two protesters told Reuters that callers identifying themselves as Beijing police officers asked them to report to a police station on Tuesday with written accounts of their activities on Sunday night. "We are all desperately deleting our chat history," said another person who witnessed the Beijing protest and declined to be identified. Simmering discontent with stringent COVID prevention policies three years into the pandemic ignited into protests in cities thousands of miles apart over the weekend. Officials say the COVID policy has kept the death toll in the thousands, avoiding the millions of deaths elsewhere. In an editorial that did not mention the protests, People's Daily, the Party's official newspaper, urged citizens to "unswervingly implement" COVID policies.
SHANGHAI, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Louis Vuitton on Friday announced plans to open a dedicated furniture and homewares store in Shanghai, a world first for the French luxury brand as it aims to expand further into lifestyle offerings to affluent Chinese clients. Louis Vuitton, part of LVMH (LVMH.PA), said in a statement the showroom will be trialled for several months as a pop-up and if successful will then become a permanent feature. A smaller side building is dedicated to showing designs by Frank Chou, the first mainland Chinese designer tapped by Louis Vuitton to collaborate on the Objet Nomades collection, as the furniture and homewares ranges is known. Louis Vuitton dipped its toes into a more lifestyle-oriented offering in China last month when it opened a store in the southwestern city of Chengdu that included an exhibition space and restaurant. Verghese sees homewares as a good bet for Louis Vuitton, especially in China.
New "Avatar" film gets rare China release
  + stars: | 2022-11-23 | by ( Casey Hall | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: 1 min
SHANGHAI, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The long-awaited sequel to James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar", will be released in mainland Chinese cinemas on Dec. 16, 20th Century Studios announced on Wednesday on its official Weibo account. "Avatar: The Way of Water" is one of the few foreign films to get access to the Chinese market in recent months, with others including the latest film in the "Minions" franchise and Sony Pictures' "Where the Crawdads Sing". Reporting by Casey Hall; Editing by Tom HogueOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
[1/2] Camden Hauge, who owns the Egg cafe, poses in her cafe in central Shanghai, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, November 16, 2022. Their Lost Plate company, which has been hosting food tours in several Chinese cities since 2015, will instead veer to Southeast Asia. With COVID outbreaks getting worse, it is unlikely that China's economy can shift into a higher gear in the near term. Local authorities in some Chinese cities eased restrictions, while others tightened. At its core, the problem reflects authorities' failure to prioritise the interests of consumers, who are often the punching bag in China's investment-driven economy.
Singles Day growth this year had been widely predicted at flat to low single digits. Alibaba did not respond to requests for comment on its decision to avoid releasing figures on the 11-day sales event ended that ended on Friday. [1/4] A delivery worker sorts parcels at a makeshift logistics station ahead of Alibaba's Singles' Day shopping festival, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, November 10, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song 1 2 3 4Consultancy Syntun on Saturday estimated Alibaba and other Chinese e-commerce firms holding Singles Day shopping events together logged 934 billion yuan in sales, up 2.9%. The company's Tmall marketplace offered Singles Day deals on more than 17 million products, 3 million more than last year, with a record-matching 290,000 brands participating.
[1/4] A delivery worker sorts parcels at a makeshift logistics station ahead of Alibaba's Singles' Day shopping festival, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, November 10, 2022. REUTERS/Aly SongSHANGHAI, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding (9988.HK) and other Chinese e-commerce firms holding Singles Day shopping events together logged a 4.7% decline in sales for the first 12 hours of the final day, a research firm said. Citi analysts said this week they were conservatively forecasting Alibaba's GMV for the event to range between 545 billion yuan and 560 billion yuan ($75 billion-$77 billion), growth of 0.9% to 3.6%. Yang Zengdong, 40, a teacher in Shanghai, said she had second thoughts about participating in Singles Day at all this year, but when the final sales period started on Thursday evening, she ended up purchasing about the same amount as last year. "I think it's something deep in the mind of Chinese people that if you don't buy on Singles Day, you are missing out on an opportunity," she said.
[1/4] A delivery worker sorts parcels at a makeshift logistics station ahead of Alibaba's Singles' Day shopping festival, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, November 10, 2022. REUTERS/Aly SongSHANGHAI, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding (9988.HK) and other Chinese e-commerce firms holding Singles Day shopping events together logged a 4.7% decline in sales for the first half of the final day, a research firm said. Chinese consultancy Syntun said it was estimating a combined 223 billion yuan ($31 billion) for the 12-hour time period. The Singles Day shopping festival, which despite its name has evolved into a multi-week event, is a key barometer of Chinese retail demand. Citi analysts said this week they were conservatively forecasting Alibaba's gross merchandise value (GMV) for the event to range between 545 billion yuan and 560 billion yuan ($75-77 billion), growth of 0.9% to 3.6%.
[1/4] A delivery worker sorts parcels at a makeshift logistics station ahead of Alibaba's Singles' Day shopping festival, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, November 10, 2022. The Singles Day shopping festival, which despite its name has evolved into a multi-week event, is a key barometer of Chinese retail demand. But Citi predicts rival e-commerce giant JD.com (9618.HK), which also holds a Singles Day shopping event, to fare somewhat better as it is strong in consumer electronics and home appliance offerings which are expected to remain popular. Singles Day has also had contend with the absence of one its two live-streaming mega sales gurus, Viya, who has been offline since being fined for tax evasion. "Alibaba has tried to make (the event) less about just dropping prices," said Mark Tanner, chief executive of Shanghai-based consultancy, China Skinny.
Gap to sell Greater China units to e-commerce firm Baozun
  + stars: | 2022-11-08 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +2 min
BEIJING, Nov 8 (Reuters) - U.S. apparel retailer Gap Inc (GPS.N) has agreed to sell its Greater China businesses to Baozun Inc (9991.HK), the e-commerce service provider said on Tuesday, as headwinds persists for global consumer brands in the world's second-largest economy. China's Baozun said its unit would acquire Gap Shanghai Commercial and Gap Taiwan Ltd, which operate the whole business of Gap Greater China, with a primary deal size of $40 million and no more than $50 million for adjustment. The Shanghai entity reported a net loss after tax of 256 million yuan ($35.34 million) for 2021, compared with 456.3 million yuan a year earlier, Baozun said in a filing. The Taiwan entity reported a post-tax net loss of T$199.8 million ($6.24 million) for the year ended January 29, 2022. Separately, Baozun said Gap has granted it an exclusive right to manufacture and sell its products in Greater China area.
SHANGHAI, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Several Shanghai residents received fresh stay-at-home orders and mandatory testing notices on Tuesday as authorities raced to trace contacts linked to a COVID-positive woman whose visit to the city's Disney Resort prompted its temporary lockdown. The Shanghai Disney Resort on Monday abruptly shut its gates, locking in all visitors at the time and only allowing them to leave, hours later, after they had tested negative for the virus. Marvis He was among Disney visitors caught up in the resort's lockdown, having flown in from Shenzhen in hopes of enjoying the park's Halloween themed fireworks. Foxconn has been one of the biggest corporate names affected by a quasi-lockdown of Zhengzhou, a major logistics hub in central China. In recent days, videos appearing to show departing Foxconn workers laden with luggage and walking along village roads towards their home towns have gone viral on Chinese social media.
China rolls out first inhalable COVID vaccine
  + stars: | 2022-10-28 | by ( Casey Hall | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +3 min
Chinese regulators approved the vaccine, produced by Chinese pharmaceutical firm CanSino Biologics (6185.HK), for use as a booster in September. His hospital is among those administering the new vaccine, which will be used as well as regular injected shots. The country has relied on domestically produced, inactivated shots and has yet to import, or introduce its own version, of an mRNA vaccine. Loh is hopeful that results from Shanghai's foray into inhaled vaccines will encourage other countries to follow suit. "I think inhaled vaccines for respiratory illness like COVID-19 will be the future," he said.
It also follows some 60 Tapestry store openings in China over the last two years. Research from real estate firm Savills also shows 55% of the world's luxury store openings last year took place in China. It saw China sales slide 32% for the quarter ended July 2 from the same period a year earlier. China sales generally account for around a fifth of its overall sales. Coach's luxury market share in China is also more than double that of Michael Kors and more than triple that of Ralph Lauren and Tory Burch, according to Euromonitor data.
An advertisement promoting Alibaba's Singles' Day shopping festival is pictured, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, October 22, 2022. Sweaty Betty China Vice President Lexie Morris told Reuters the active-wear brand would use only "one or two" livestream hosts this Singles Day season and that it was starting to work with much smaller and more sports-focused livestreamers. Analysts expect to see another year of slowing sales overall this Singles Day, dampened by a slowing economy and China's zero-COVID-19 policy. In June, Alibaba rival JD.com Inc (9618.HK) also recorded its slowest-ever sales growth for 618, China's second-largest shopping festival after Singles Day. "Instead of a traffic-driven model, Taobao Live helps merchants grow their businesses sustainably," it said.
Then came the pandemic and a property crisis, and with them, clear evidence of the limits of the debt-fuelled, investment-driven model that had propelled China's economy and businesses like Shores'. "If there is no investment, consumption will be like a tree without roots," said Jia, who previously led a finance ministry think tank. Many uncertainties hang over China's economy: the zero-COVID policy, a crackdown on tech and other industries, geopolitical tensions and rising borrowing costs in export markets. China is widely expected to miss this year's 5.5% GDP growth target and Natixis estimates growth may not even top 3% a year into Xi's next mandate. Oxford Economics expects average annual GDP growth this decade to halve from the 1999-2019 average to 4.5% and slow to 3% in the decade after.
SHANGHAI, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Chinese consumers are typically known for lavish spending on high-end handbags, clothes and accessories that sustain Western luxury brands. Brands that have jumped on the trend include Kweichow Moutai (600519.SS), best known for $300 bottles of baijiu, the Chinese spirit popular at banquets. It debuted baijiu-infused ice cream at $10 a cup in May, racking up 2.5 million yuan ($350,000) of sales on the first day. Chinese consumers are "spoiling themselves with those little things and they're loving something novel," said Mark Tanner, founder of marketing agency China Skinny. "When times aren't so good, people want to feel better, guilty pleasures like ice cream can help," said Low.
Women with dogs chat through gaps in a barrier at a sealed area, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China October 11, 2022. Shanghai, a city of 25 million people, reported 28 new local cases for Oct. 10, authorities said on Tuesday, the fourth day of double-digit increases. Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com RegisterNationwide, 2,089 new local infections were reported, the highest since Aug. 20. That's a step up from once a week presently, a regime imposed after the earlier lockdown was lifted. Checks on people travelling to Shanghai and places such as hotels, should also be strengthened, municipal authorities said.
People line up to get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a nucleic acid testing site, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, October 10, 2022. REUTERS/Aly SongSummary Local COVID cases in China rise to highest since Aug. 20Covid epicentre in northern region of Inner MongoliaParts of Shanghai close leisure, entertainment venuesBEIJING, Oct 10 (Reuters) - China called for "patience" with its tough COVID policies and warned against any "war-weariness" as local cases soared to their highest since August, days ahead of a pivotal Communist Party congress. A few days into the Golden Week, the western region of Xinjiang also barred people from leaving as cases ticked higher. Tourists stranded in Xinjiang could seek temporary work as electricians, cooks and wood craftsmen, advised authorities in its capital Urumqi. Shanghai, which locked down its entire population of 25 million in April and May, reported 34 local cases on Oct. 9, the most in almost three months.
Passengers wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak sit in a sightseeing bus during a night tour, ahead of the Chinese National Day Golden Week holiday in Beijing, China September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Florence LoBEIJING, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Travel during China's Golden Week holiday, which begins on Saturday, is set to hit its lowest in years, analysts say, as COVID-19 concerns spur calls for people to avoid travel and keep to their cities, while economic woes damp spending. If trips this holiday reached half the levels of 2019 and spending over the period reached 30% to 40% of holiday spending before the pandemic, that would amount to a "pretty good" result, he added. In the past two years, China's Golden Week travel and spending have fallen short of the levels of 2019, which racked up 782 million trips and tourism revenue of 650 billion yuan ($90 billion). Sanya "is not back", said Shirley, the manager of a luxury store in the city, where travel industry workers despair of the return of Golden Week tourists.
"More and more people are now aware they can sell luxury goods for some money and the buyer side is noticing that they can get a great deal," said Zhu, 33. China's second-hand luxury market is tipped to grow to $30 billion in 2025 from $8 billion in 2020, consultancy iResearch said late last year. HANDBAGS, JEWELLERYOffice worker Wang Jianing is exploring buying second-hand luxury products, given the economic climate. China's luxury resale marketplace is expected by analysts to remain dominated by local players for now. Though handbags remain the top-selling category on luxury platforms like ZZER, Zhu said sales of watches and jewellery are also growing fast.
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