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February 7, 2013

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Migrants cash in on fireworks

The Spring Festival is generally regarded as a time for family reunions but for canny shopkeepers, it is also an opportune moment to pocket huge profits.

Take Xu Shangyi, for example. A native of east China's Jiangxi Province, Xu has gone home only once in the last 20 years during the festival.

And we know why.

"Holidays are always the busiest time," said the 38-year-old resident of Fuzhou, who owns a fruit store. "It is also a good time to make money."

Xu's store is among the 1,600 stores and temporary tents that pop up in the city during the New Year week, that are allowed to sell licensed fireworks during the festival period.

Xu sold fireworks worth 30,000 yuan per day last Spring Festival from a small space squeezed out from his fruit store on Taixing Road in Jing'an District. He ended up pocketing 6,000 yuan per day in profits!

Jiang Lianghua, a grocery store owner in Changning District, was busy erecting a temporary shelter yesterday at a busy crossroad to sell the fireworks.

"I didn't know whether they would sell," said Jiang, who was selling fireworks for the first time and hired two women to help him.

"I just want to give it a try."

But business was good on the very first day. Within half an hour of setting up the tent, he had sold most of his products.

His customers were essentially parents looking for small stuff for their children and businessmen intending to start off the year with a blast, supposedly a good omen.

But despite the profits, there has been a steady decline in the number of shops allowed to sell fireworks in the city. The number has dropped to 1,600 from 2,200 two years ago.

"They (customers) come just before the Chinese lunar New Year eve," Xu said, unmindful of an online campaign to cut down on noise and fireworks.

"Tradition is tradition after all," he said.

But for all that cash, they have a price to pay.

Xu regrets that he misses out on festivities and is unable to spend time with his four children during the most important time of the year.

The youngest is just two years old. All of them live with his elderly parents.

Xu came to Shanghai 20 years ago, selling homegrown oranges on his bicycle, along with his elder brother and younger sister. All of them now have a fruit store in the city.

Xu stays with his wife and a nephew, who also helps him at the store.

"It is not like I do not want to go back home," Xu said. "But trying to survive and live here is more important."


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