Most Chinese buyers are very cautious about going out, the survey shows

Shoppers walk into a newly opened Sam’s Club in Beijing on December 23, 2022, the chain’s fourth store in the Chinese capital.

Zhao Jun | China News Service | Getty Images

BEIJING – Most Chinese still don’t want to leave their apartments, despite a relaxation in Covid-related restrictions, an Oliver Wyman survey found.

More than 90% of consumers polled over the weekend said they are avoiding going out, the consultancy said. Almost 60% of respondents said they would not be comfortable going out in public for at least the next few months.

After months of increasingly strict measures to control Covid-1[ads1]9 outbreaks, mainland China suddenly ended most restrictions in early December. Meanwhile, infections began to increase in Beijing and later other cities, such as Shanghai. Visits to fever clinics skyrocketed, straining an already stretched public health system.

“We observed that many high streets and shopping centers were deserted in December,” Kenneth Chow, Oliver Wyman principal, said in an email this week.

“Due to increased infection, many businesses we spoke to expressed concerns about labor shortages as a significant portion of their staff have been on sick leave and some are struggling to maintain service levels,” Chow said.

Anecdotally, while many more went out to shopping malls and attractions in Beijing over the weekend, not all stores had reopened yet. The venues were modestly crowded, but not at the packed levels that had been typical of the city of 22 million pre-pandemic.

Most Chinese buyers are very cautious about going out, the survey shows

Only 8% of consumers surveyed were comfortable going out right now, Oliver Wyman said.

The study covered 4,500 Chinese over the age of 16, in all sizes of cities, and weighted to be representative of China’s urban population.

Local interest in saving over spending has climbed this year to record highs, according to surveys conducted over the past two decades by the People’s Bank of China.

Nearly 62% of respondents said they preferred saving to spending or investing, according to fourth-quarter results released Tuesday. That’s up from around 58% earlier this year.

People who intended to spend more were most interested in doing so in healthcare and education, the survey said.

General caution when travelling

And despite data showing a surge in interest in travel, the Oliver Wyman survey indicated that most Chinese remain cautious.

Less than a fifth of respondents said they planned to travel during the upcoming Lunar New Year in late January, the consultancy said, noting that Chinese were more interested in traveling if they were wealthier.

However, the survey was carried out before China announced on Monday that from January 8 travelers would no longer need to quarantine upon arrival on the mainland.

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