Happy Year of the Pig – welcome back to those who had a break over the Spring Festival. Visiting virtually any western retailer in China over the Lunar New Year period, it has been pretty clear that the swine zodiac is upon us. No price point has been immune, from Gucci’s 35 items of New Year paraphernalia featuring Disney’s three little pigs to the 120 pieces in H&M’s Lunar New Year Collection.
Even retailers abroad have not been shy to capitalise on the spike in spending over CNY. Sydney’s Westfield Chatswood mall has been adorned with 88 golden pigs and prosperity trees and California’s largest shopping mall, South Coast Plaza, saw double the amount of stores offering New Year promotions or products compared to last year, to name a few.
Yet whilst the Chinese New Year festival remains steeped in tradition, more and more consumers are sidestepping long-held customs. The most important tradition of returning home to the family for the festival – the theme of seemingly every emotional Spring Festival TV commercial – has had its share of snubbers. There are the single women and men who don’t want to face their family without a partner (note the rent-a-boyfriend craze that has been common over the past few years), and the basis of many opting to travel abroad instead. Even families themselves are leaving the frosty weather to spend the break overseas. Overall, there was an 11% increase of people travelling in and out of China this CNY period.
Yet even those who don’t have the affluence to travel abroad are forgoing the crammed journey back to the village. Thousands of delivery folk have been lured to stay in the cities so consumers can still have their goods delivered within the remarkable 30 minutes. Convenience-seeking consumers don’t want to spend days preparing the family feast, or pay the inflated prices in crowded restaurants, so many are opting to have the festive dinner sent to their homes with the tap of a smartphone, even if delivery fees are 2-3 times their normal rate.
The CNY food delivery is another sign of technology creeping into the national festival. In 2014, WeChat digitalised much of the traditional red envelope gifting which has grown every year since. Even some of the traditional gifts are being superseded by tech-goods such as robotic dogs and drones. Technology aside, the good old staples of CNY remain in demand, just evolving to tastes like everything in China. The ever-popular fruit gifting has seen a rise of smaller gifts packs offering more diversity from the traditional apples and pears of previous years.
Although Chinese consumers are increasingly breaking from traditions – like consumers anywhere in the world – long-held customs and superstitions are unlikely to go away any time soon. Brands should be aware of these cultural aspects, and sensitively incorporate them into marketing strategies to make the most of the Pig Year ahead. We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.