Diversified markets heat up China's nighttime economy

(Xinhua) 08:29, February 24, 2023

A stall owner (1st R) sells goods at a street market featuring traditional custom in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province, Feb. 19, 2023. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)

HAIKOU, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- As night falls, the Xixili commercial street in Haikou, the capital of south China's island province of Hainan, bursts into life.

A motley of hand-made ornaments and snacks adorn the many camp-style stalls at the night fair, drawing in an influx of residents and tourists.

Wang Hongyu busied himself with making hamburgers at a snack stall. Running an internet technology company during the day, Wang sells burgers at night as a hobby and as a second business.

"Stall owners here either see it as a full-time job or an avocation to improve income," Wang said, adding that he could make revenue up to 10,000 yuan (about 1,449 U.S. dollars) on a busy night.

Since the beginning of this year, new forms of night markets have sprung up in the city, boosting consumption and injecting momentum into the economic recovery from the COVID-19 doldrums.

Some of the markets have regular opening times while others are pop-up. Integrating the latest pop fashions or imitating ancient Chinese bazaars, they have become particularly popular among young consumers.

"It is more diverse and inclusive, different from the traditional night markets," said Wang Yaqi, a sophomore from Hainan University who visited a pop-up fair of toys, hand-made items, and snacks last weekend.

"You can see the pet culture, the hand-making culture, and other subcultures popular among the young people," she said.

Xu Dongjie, the owner of a pet stall at the market, said the foot traffic was much higher than at her brick-and-mortar pet shop. "They get to know us through this market and could become our potential customers," she said.

To her, participating in the market was also a way to network and make new friends. "Pets have their own friends, and we also need a new social life."

At another pop-up market held last weekend, over 30 stalls reproduced the street sight of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) by putting up archaic decorations or having staff don garments of that period.

"It is interesting to experience the traditional cultures in the ancient-style market," said Lou Hanbin, a tourist from Henan Province who rented a traditional Chinese costume to attend the market.

Tourists visit a street market featuring traditional custom in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province, Feb. 19, 2023. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)

"We are happy to see an increasing number of night markets in Haikou in recent years," said resident Fei Luyuan. "They are growing younger and are enjoyed by more young people."

Many Chinese cities have made efforts to boost consumption and employment, both negatively affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, by encouraging innovative night markets. In southwest China's Chongqing, a night market teems with temporary stalls set up from car trunks.

"The night market has brought joy and fun for the consumers and at the same time boosted the confidence of the vendors. Its flexibility affords more employment alternatives to job-seekers and is gaining popularity among young people," said Liu Jiangyong, deputy director of the commerce commission of Chongqing's Nan'an District.

Wang Ke, director of the bureau of tourism, culture, radio, television, and sports of Haikou, said the government supports the emergence of innovative night markets, which can combine with diverse cultural themes and cater to the demands of young consumers.

"Hainan is building itself into an international tourism and consumption center and is encouraging new forms of consumption," Wang said.

"Next, we will recruit various market entities to develop and upgrade the street market culture," he said. 

(Web editor: Wu Chaolan, Liang Jun)


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