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The Children of the Dragon

By Li Woke (China Daily)

14:52, March 12, 2012

For Wu Jing, the beginning of "The Year of the Dragon" has been stressful.

She has to get up before 6 am, travel long distances and stand in a crowded metro carriage for hours to get to her destination - the hospital.

"This is my weekly routine for physical check-ups. Although I am so tired, there is no better option," said the mom-to-be, 31, after taking a deep breath.

Wu's due date is at the end of March, which, according to the lunar calendar, will be the starting point for the "dragon baby" boom, because most Chinese couples believe that children born during the Year of the Dragon, which began in late January this year, will be strong and enjoy good luck. Eleven of the 12 zodiac symbols in Chinese culture are animals - the dragon is the only one that is a mythical creature and is often related to emperors.

According to a report by the BBC, the birth rate in Hong Kong increased by 5 percent year-on-year during the last Year of the Dragon in 2000. Xinhua News Agency said China is expecting a 5 percent rise in the number of babies born in this auspicious year.

"We're busier than last year," said a saleswoman at Leyou (China) Chain Store Co Ltd, a major Chinese shop specializing in children's products in Beijing. "This year, there are many more pregnant ladies in our store."

"Maternity clothes and babywear have sold very well recently and I think demand for formula milk and diapers will rise too," said the saleswomen.

"The baby boom has brought a sales increase, although not a very sharp one, and the growth is likely to be sustained for the next few years," said Larry Kung, chief operating officer at Leyou. "We will increase the range of maternity products at our stores."

Kung said sales growth will be driven by higher spending by Chinese parents. "They tend to pay more attention to the safety and quality of kids' products and they want to provide the best for their only child."

Established in 1999, Leyou offers maternity, baby and children's products at more than 200 stores in the country. "Our sales revenue has been growing at more than 60 percent annually in recent years thanks to our rapid store expansion. I believe there will be huge potential in this niche market in the future," said Kung.

As their income levels rise, parents in the world's second-largest economy have more cash to spend on their children. According to Frost & Sullivan, a US-based market consultancy, annual per household spending on children's products in urban China increased to $663 in 2009 from $288 in 2005 and is expected to reach $1,256 by the end of next year.

By 2013, the size of China's market for children's products is expected to reach 311.1 billion yuan ($49 billion), at a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent, according to Frost & Sullivan.

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