Children bring Christmas to China

By Matt Hodges in Shanghai ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-12-24 09:58:00

Children bring Christmas to China

A girl takes stock of Santa at a mall in Xuchang, Henan province. [Photo by Geng Guoqing/China Daily]

Children bring Christmas to China

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While most Chinese still regard Christmas as a foreign flight of fancy, the commercial trappings of what many Westerners view as the most magical time of the year are inexorably gaining traction among the country's growing middle class - often through their offspring.

"My boy told me he has written a letter to Santa asking for a Hot Wheels toy car, which he really wants," says He Jiajing. "The reason is that Hot Wheels can't break easily," she adds.

At just 6 years of age, her son Zhao Junxi is already fed up with settling for second best, or local products marked by lower standards of workmanship.

Whether it be foreigners who are paid to dress up like Santa at bazaars and malls, gift-wrapped Transformer toys and cotton-candy sets, or overpriced turkeys for home delivery, it's becoming harder to escape the signs of Yuletide in cities across the country.

China became the world's second-largest retail market for traditional toys and games last year, according to Euromonitor, and as the government loosens controls on its longstanding family planning policy, the market is likely to keep growing.

Spending on children jumped from 74 billion yuan ($11.9 billion) in 2005 to 165.3 billion yuan in 2009 and is forecast to almost double to 311.1 billion yuan this year, Beijing Business Today reported in an article in May.

One of the spillover effects of this, together with growing disposable income and a general embracing of foreign culture, especially in cities like Shanghai, is a boom in Christmas toy sales.

Toys R Us embarked on a rapid expansion drive this year, opening 23 new outlets across the country to tap growing demand.

"Christmas is fast gaining popularity in China, where customers adopt the custom of gift-giving," says Mark Murphy, managing director of the chain's China operations. "We continue to see strong sales growth over last year. We expect this trend to continue in December."

"Many of our products are unique to China," he adds. "We also have the ability here to develop toy trends and get them into the market quickly."

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