GUANGZHOU, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Despite the rain, customers formed a long line to buy bubble tea at Bliss Cake in Dongguan, a manufacturing hub in south China's Guangdong Province, on a weekend afternoon.
Having disappeared during the COVID-19 outbreak in the past few months, bubble tea lovers have returned to the store, which saw its 17 tables fully occupied, and a long line in its takeaway-fetching area.
"Our sales were depressed by COVID-19 for two months. But now we can see customers coming back as people gradually return to work and begin 'revenge buying' to cure the cabin fever," said Wen Shiming, marketing manager of Bliss Cake.
Surrounded by factories and office buildings, this bubble tea store has been a gathering point of young workers, and its business offers a glimpse into local work resumption.
Dubbed "world factory," the city of Dongguan features a sprawling manufacturing industry. It is a major supplier of smartphones, Barbie dolls, and pricey shoes in the global market.
In recent years, the city witnessed the rise of the high-tech industry. Bubble tea, a popular beverage among young Chinese, is testimony to that trend.
Data showed there are three bubble tea stores for every 2,000 Dongguan residents, compared with one coffee business for every 2,073 people in Berkeley, which a study ranked as the U.S. city with the most coffee shops per capita.
Jian Weizhe, manager of My Caffe Life, another bubble tea shop, was once worried that COVID-19 would deal a deadly blow to the entire bubble tea business. As one of the largest bubble tea chains in Dongguan, My Caffe Life saw its sales volume in March plummet by 40 percent year on year.
Much to Jian's relief, the chain's business rebounded in April and surpassed the year-earlier level in May, and the familiar long queues are making a comeback.
That concurs with a general economic recovery in Guangdong, China's manufacturing heartland, after the waning of the epidemic. Official data showed economic activities in the province had rebounded in April to the same level last year, as businesses reopened and factories picked up steam.
In Dongguan, retail tax invoicing increased by 10.5 percent year on year in May, indicating a smooth recovery in the retail sector hard hit by the epidemic.
Huang Yaode, operating director of bubble tea chain store Teabucks Lab, said the revival of the bubble tea business is a vote of confidence from the public for the COVID-19 containment.
"Consumers will only come out and take off their masks for a cup of tea if the epidemic has been contained. The crowded bubble tea stores are proof that everything is getting back on track," Huang said.
Xu Bo, secretary-general of Dongguan's chain restaurant development and promotion association, agreed, saying bubble tea has become a socializing tool and part of everyday life for many Chinese.
"Behind the rising sales of bubble tea stores is the rapid recovery of the society and the economy," he said. Enditem