JINAN, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Much to the relief of Chinese toy exporters, shoppers in the West have finally loosened their purse strings for the Christmas rush this year.
"This year's overseas demand for Christmas toys has been obviously stronger than that of the past few years, as economies in America and Europe regained strength," said Zhou Yeliang, general manager of Weihai Teddy Toy Co., Ltd.
The company, based in east China's Shandong Province, saw a 50 percent yearly increase in Christmas toy orders this year. The exports were mainly destined for France and Germany.
Factories in southern and eastern Chinese provinces are the world's main workshop for Christmas presents.
Official figures showed that China's toy exports rose 6.2 percent year on year in the first three quarters to 8.96 billion U.S. dollars.
From August to November each year, Chinese toy makers are busy churning out toys and gadgets for catch-up orders from Western countries for the Christmas season.
With the U.S. economy growing at 4.1 percent -- its fastest pace in nearly two years -- and the EU economy also gaining marginal growth in the third quarter, export-oriented Chinese toy factories are finally out of the doldrums.
Yin Aiqin, sales manager of the Wendeng Wande Arts and Crafts Co. Ltd., said that unlike winter slumps in the past few years, the company's production plan has been fully booked until June of next year.
The company's toys and crafts are exported to a dozen countries, including France, America, Brazil and Japan.
In south China's Guangdong Province, where 70 percent of the country's toy exports are made, the latest customs figures showed that exports of Christmas necessities, including toys, trinkets and garments, soared 68.1 percent year-on-year in November.
China's toy exports were battered by reports of toxic toys in exports to the U.S. in 2008 after hitting a record high of 8.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2007. The ensuing years of global economic crisis further slashed consumption in the traditional export markets for Chinese toys in America and Europe.
"Higher safety standards in the export markets and rising labor and raw material costs back home are still limiting the profit margin," said Zhou, the manager of Teddy Toy.
In Jieshi Township, where the toy company is located, 70 percent of the town's rural laborers have quit farming and found jobs in 20 toy companies.
Zhou said the company has been adding investment in quality and safety testing equipment every year since 2008 to ensure the toy exports meet all the criteria for the U.S. and EU. Investment for this year alone amounted to 500,000 yuan (82,350 U.S. dollars).
The strong Chinese currency has also made Chinese exports less competitive in the global market.
Zhou said the company is seeking to outsource production, and is transferring its focus to developing new products and trade.
"The good news is that the export market is recovering. We are optimistic again about the business," said Zhou.