An 80-meter-high artificial waterfall has become the latest crowd-puller at the Grandview Mall in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, with the shopping complex receiving huge numbers of shoppers during the Spring Festival holiday.
Xie Meng, CEO of Grandview Group, said the mall had planned the launch of the waterfall and a series of festive events and cultural activities well ahead of the Lunar New Year due to the local retail market's strong rebound.
"We have been expecting huge crowds with the general containment of the COVID-19 epidemic in China," Xie said.
The Tianhe Road business circle, where the Grandview Mall and 15 other shopping centers are located, received nearly 6 million visitors from Thursday to Saturday, the first three days of the sevenday Spring Festival holiday. The figure was close to the number of visitors the area received before the epidemic.
The bustling shops are indicative of the "V-shaped" recovery of China's domestic consumption. The country's retail sales of consumer goods grew 4.6 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of last year－contrasting with a 3.9 percent fall for the whole year.
A recent report by the China General Chamber of Commerce predicted a yearly increase of more than 10 percent in China's retail sales this year, in view of the country's firming economy and huge consumption market.
For Li Mengjie, a Guangzhou resident and a frequent visitor to the Grandview Mall, a packed shopping center during the Spring Festival holiday seemed almost surreal.
"Last year, my family and I basically spent the holiday at home, considering the grim epidemic situation," Li said. "Everything seems to have returned to where it was during the pre-epidemic days, except for the epidemic prevention protocols at the shopping centers like wearing masks and health code checks."
Li said the Grandview Mall has risen from the epidemic stronger, with more entertainment facilities like an aquarium, a cultural museum and a botanical garden.
"The shopping mall is now more like an amusement park," she said. "I can do all sorts of fun stuff here all day."
Shopping centers across China have been integrating more forms of entertainment with traditional shopping and dining businesses to attract more customers.
In Guangzhou's Beijing Road business circle, another popular shopping location in the city, a major upgrade was completed before Spring Festival. Interactive lighting equipment was installed on the shopping centers' walls and unmanned vending carts deployed on the roads.
Xian Qiuxian, deputy general manager of a shopping mall in the area, said it had been receiving customers till midnight after recently starting to operate round-the-clock on weekends, which "was unimaginable in the past".
Zhang Ximing, a researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Commerce, said China's offline retailing, one of the industries worst hit by COVID-19, has basically shaken off the influence of the epidemic thanks to the country's effective epidemic prevention and control measures.
"Chinese customers have restored their confidence and are attaching more importance to personal development and enjoyment in consumption," Zhang said. "They are willing to spend more on education, entertainment, medical care and immersive experiences."
China's brick-and-mortar retailers have ratcheted up their digital transformation efforts during the Spring Festival shopping season as e-commerce continues to reshape the country's retail landscape.
Last year, the country's online retail sales of goods increased by 14.8 percent year-on-year to reach 9.8 trillion yuan ($1.52 trillion), topping the world for an eighth consecutive year, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce.
"The digital transformation of shopping centers and other brick-and-mortar stores can help them make better use of their advantage in providing an enriching experience to the customers and help further unlock the growth potential of China's domestic consumption," said Zheng Yongbiao, deputy head of the commerce bureau in Hangzhou, Zhejiang's provincial capital.