It’s been a miserable year for Chinese exporters, and official figures still paint a gloomy picture. Even in July, when most Chinese factories ship their Christmas goods to the West, exports fell by 22.8pc.
Will it be bare underneath the tree this year? Well, exports have fallen, year-on-year, every month so far in 2009, culminating in a 23.4pc dip last month.
But at the same time Chinese factory owners don’t seem glum. In fact, bosses in Dongguan are complaining that they can’t hire enough staff to fill their orders. Shipping is up at the ports too, with container throughput bouncing back 13.5pc from its lowest point in February.
So what’s going on? Well, it appears that export volumes may be recovering, but that Western buyers are haggling furiously over price. In August, there was a 9.3pc fall in the price of exported goods, across a broad range of sectors, from chemicals to handbags.
To the relief of small children everywhere, the toy industry appears to be weathering the financial crisis, and a new wave of regulations from the US and Europe, surprisingly well. Toy makers have received endless recall notices this year, including one case in which 470,000 dangerous products had to be called back from the US.
However, Li Zhuoming, executive vice chairman of the Guangdong Toy Association said toy exports totalled $650 million in August, up from $600 million in July and $400 million in June.
The August figure is a 10.1pc decline in value from last year, which is an achievement against the national trend. Hi-tech robots, apparently, are selling well, and the province has made up for poor sales in the US and Europe by near-doubling exports to South East Asia.
So there will probably be plenty underneath the Christmas tree this year, and the same goods are on offer for less. One year after the financial crisis struck, people are back in the shops, and enough Chinese factories have survived the downturn to ensure that prices remain depressed everywhere.