by Xinhua writer Zhou Zhou
The September back-to-school shopping season in China is in great shape, after governmental injunctions against attending vacation classes and the quarantining of a large number of students as part of A/H1N1 flu prevention measures.
Although consumer confidence has not yet fully recovered from the economic slowdown, parents are keen to equip their children with school gear ranging from pencils to laptops as they begin the new semester.
Jie Yahua, a 47-year-old accountant, spent 4,000 yuan (585.2 U.S. dollars), or half of her monthly salary to obtain glasses for her daughter Jie Fang, 20, an undergraduate at the Nanjing Audit University in east China.
As students like Jie Fang have ruined their eyesight through computer overuse during vacation, they are having glasses prescribed before classes begin and are boosting the business of opticians.
A worker in Tongren Optomoetry, a Beijing-based optics chain store, said, "80 percent of our clients in the past two months have been students, much higher numbers than usual."
The health-related market is also prospering, especially the influenza medication sector.
The Beijing education authority this year plans to inoculate every student in primary and middle schools with seasonal flu vaccine. It is also considering inoculating them against the A/H1N1 flu virus.
For stationery, the traditional best seller, it is business as usual. And now retailers are thriving online.
"Stationary Expert", an online shop on Taobao.com, established in 2004, has seen its turnover lift by 25 percent during August compared with July.
"Students add much impetus to sales," said shop owner Wu Qiling. "And top-grade stationery like the Parker pen are increasingly welcomed by students as a gift."
In her shop Parker pens are priced at about 400 yuan and the shop's turnover exceeded 20,000 yuan in August.
Electric gadgets have always been students' favorites: Ipods, laptops, digital cameras or mobile phones.
Zhang Zhiwei, a sales clerk at Beijing Zoomflight Telecom branch, said, "To buy a mobile phone is both an encouragement and a reward and the parents pay."
The branch is conducting a campaign to boost mobile phone sales before school starts. Most are low-end products costing less than 1,000 yuan.
"Many buyers are high school graduates preparing for college life," Zhang said.
Mobile phones are attracting much younger subscribers. Now middle and even elementary students are included.
In spite of criticism the children are apt to be addicted to playing mobile phone games, Jie, a 47-year-old mother said, "I think there must be ways to avoid addiction. It's so easy for me to get in touch with my child on a mobile phone."
Both of her two daughters have mobile phones. The younger one, Du Te, 13, is in junior middle school in Beijing.
Educational input remains a major investment for Chinese parents who customarily put great emphasis on it. In the new semester, Jie will send her younger daughter to Jinghua School, a non-government education agency every Saturday, to improve her learning.
A two-month course at Jinghua costs 1,480 yuan.
Figures from the Ministry of Education show about 322 million students were registered in China in 2007.
Though back-to-school sales enliven retail sales in a country committed to expand domestic demand, experts warn parents should help their children shun extravagance.