Consumer spending during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday rose 15.5% over the same period last year to US$23.5 billion, the South China Morning Post reported, citing Ministry of Commerce figures. The most popular purchases included clothing, gold jewelry, home appliances and brand-name products. There was also a boom in the sale of firecrackers after many cities lifted a 12-year ban. The catering industry saw some of the largest increases, with business rising 25%. Healthy retail sales growth was reported inland with Chongqing, Hebei, Jiangsu, Sichuan and Shanxi reporting a rise of 15-18% over last year. Rural areas also saw a doubling in the sale of cigarettes, alcohol and clothing as workers returned home from the cities.