Across Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and a major retail hub, retailers have closed stores and reduced hours intermittently since the 7.9-magnitude quake on May 12. The instability underlines a buzz of anxiety that runs through the city now, as those who experienced the quake brace for more aftershocks. Hundreds continue to sleep outside at night.
One thing that was selling: "I [heart] China" T-shirts, originally printed after riots in Tibet and international outcry over the Chinese government crackdown there stirred up strong nationalism across the country.
Some 70,000 people are confirmed dead or missing from the earthquake, but only 1,000 of those deaths were in Chengdu. The rest were in largely poor outlying farming regions, where residents had little wealth to begin with and now have nothing. In Chengdu, the pitch of anxiety one week after the quake illustrates just how massive it must have been. Residents describe confusion and panic as the ground heaved, and walls and windows shook and cracked.
"We didn't know what it was, so we ran outside with everyone else," recalled Guo Qing, who works in a shoe shop near the Wangfujing department store, a major walking mall lined with stores. "I'm still a little bit afraid to come to work."
Most businesses shut down in Chengdu for at least a day after the quake but were back to normal by the weekend. Then, on Tuesday, clerks said they shut the doors again as state-run media warned of a potential major aftershock that never materialized.
"Since the earthquake, there are only a few people coming in the shop each day," said a clerk who wouldn't give her name at a Dior boutique in central Chengdu.
The mall that houses Dior, Louis Vuitton, Versace and Fendi was virtually deserted this week, and several shops closed for a day in Tuesday's aftershock panic. Agnes Wong, manager of the Louis Vuitton shop, declined to comment about the quake or its effect on business, saying all questions had to go through the company's public relations office in Shanghai.