Survey results show that most Chinese shoppers are very cautious when going out

December, shoppers enter a newly opened Sam’s Club in Beijing. December 2022, the chain’s fourth store in China’s capital.

Zhao Jun | China news service | Getty Images

BEIJING – Most Chinese still do not want to leave their homes despite an easing of Covid-related restrictions, an Oliver Wyman poll has found.

More than 90% of consumers surveyed over the weekend said they avoid going out, according to the consultancy. Almost 60% of respondents said they would not feel comfortable going public for at least the next few months.

After months of increasingly strict measures to combat Covid-19 outbreaks, mainland China suddenly ended most restrictions in early December. Meanwhile, infections began to rise in Beijing and subsequently in other cities such as Shanghai. Visits to fever clinics skyrocketed, putting pressure on an already overburdened public health system.

“We found that many high streets and malls were deserted in December,” Oliver Wyman director Kenneth Chow said in an email this week.

“Due to the increase in infection, many companies we spoke to raised concerns about labor shortages, as a significant proportion of their employees have been ill and some are struggling to maintain their service levels,” Chow said.

While many more people visited shopping malls and attractions in Beijing over the weekend, anecdotally not all shops had reopened. Venues were modestly crowded, but not to the crowded levels typical of the pre-pandemic city of 22 million.

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

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

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

According to fourth-quarter results released Tuesday, nearly 62% of respondents said they would rather save than spend or invest. That’s up from about 58% earlier this year.

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

General caution when traveling

And despite data showing a rising interest in travel, the Oliver Wyman survey shows most Chinese remain cautious.

Less than a fifth of those surveyed said they would travel during the upcoming Lunar New Year in late January, the consultancy said, noting that Chinese people are more interested in travel when they are richer.

However, the survey was conducted before China announced on Monday that from Aug. 1, travelers would no longer be required to quarantine upon arrival in the mainland.

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