Xinhua is reporting that 230,000 packages of fireworks were sold for this year’s Lunar New Year in Beijing. That figure sounds suspiciously low given the size of the city, but it’s not the number that caught my attention.
I’m more suspicious of the reported growth in sales – up 28% year-on-year – because of a distinctly lackluster display of fireworks in central Shanghai on Sunday evening. Despite doing my best to keep business booming at the local fireworks seller, this year’s cacophony started later and ended earlier than usual.
There were two more interesting, and more telling, numbers in the Xinhua report: Injuries were down 48% this year from last year, and there were 17% fewer fireworks-related fires (both figures for Beijing). While it’s possible that the lower numbers reflect improved safety in the handling of fireworks, I have my doubts. I didn’t notice improved safety habits among the people smoking around the fireworks stands, or among the kids shooting Roman candles in the street.
More likely, there were just fewer fireworks going off. That would confirm my own observations, and would support other anecdotal evidence I’ve heard in conversations over the last few days. In less certain economic times, people are less willing to see their money go up in smoke.
Update: Adam Minter from Shanghai Scrap has also written about fireworks and the economy with interesting comparisons to last year’s sales.