Data from AutoNavi, the maps app operated by Alibaba Group Holding, shows that traffic in major shopping districts in China picked up by an average of 30 per cent over the past month, as consumer activity gradually returns to normal now that the coronavirus infection rate appears to have peaked in the country.
The early sign of increased consumer activity in China contrasts with the panic and economic uncertainty now engulfing Europe and the US, as the widening pandemic forces governments around the world to take lessons from China on how to tackle the spread of the disease with curfews and social distancing measures.
AutoNavi’s latest big data report, released on Monday, shows that traffic in and around shopping districts in several major cities in the country rose 30 per cent over the weekend of March 14-15 compared with the weekend of February 15-16, when the coronavirus in China was at its height and many areas in the country were under lockdown.
“Consumer confidence is starting to rebound as the coronavirus comes under control,” said Guo Ning, vice-president of AutoNavi. “We are seeing more and more people stepping out, with offline consumption slowly recovering.”
Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.
China’s nearly two-month lockdown has dealt a hammer blow to the economy, with retail sales – a key metric of consumption – down by 20.5 per cent across the combined two months of January and February, marking the first decline on record. The virus has however proved a boon for China’s e-commerce sector, as shoppers stuck at home buy even more online.
The new data appears to show that the country’s offline economy could now see a slow recovery. This does not mean that retail businesses can slack off on preventive measures – hand sanitiser, extra cleaning and temperature monitoring are likely to remain fixtures of everyday life in shopping malls.
AutoNavi’s mobile app users can search the names of malls and shops to see real-time traffic data – often used to avoid visiting malls at peak periods. AutoNavi said the average 30 per cent increase in traffic refers to the combined volume of people using the app to navigate the shopping destinations.
AutoNavi has more than 400 million monthly active users, according to company data. It was the first domestic travel platform to exceed 100 million daily active users.
Digital maps have become a key tool in China’s attempts to control the coronavirus pandemic, with competitor map apps from Baidu and Tencent also launching features to track population flows and provide information on clinics able to test for and treat the disease.
Covid-19, as the novel coronavirus is known, has now killed over 3,200 people in China and infected just over 80,000, of which around 68,000 have recovered. There are now around 87,000 confirmed cases outside China, according to the latest figures from health authorities.
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This article AutoNavi maps data shows recovery in traffic around shopping areas in China as coronavirus fears recede first appeared on South China Morning Post