Mark Tanner
Mark Tanner
4 March 2015 0 Comments

Happy Year of the Sheep!  For those who had a break for the Spring Festival, we hope it was a good one. 

2015’s Lunar New Year celebrations were a snapshot of a changing China.  A growing group of Chinese consumers have a new take on long-held habits, following shifts in preferences, new laws and digital initiatives.

The obligatory family reunions huddled around the television watching CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala were sidelined by more than 5 million Chinese who travelled overseas for the Spring Festival.  As always, many shopped up a storm across Asia and the West, stocking up on luxury goods and digital equipment. Those looking for fully-featured, electronic toilet seats in Japan may have to wait for the restock, after stores were cleared out by the entourage of Chinese visitors

Another favourite past time of launching fireworks around the Festival was banned for residents in 138 Chinese cities, and restricted in another 536 cities, largely due to concerns about air pollution and personal safety.  And long gone are the days of the queuing for hours, often in the bitter cold, for train tickets ten days before departure.  Online ticketing saw China Railway Corporation’s official ticketing website,, selling 5.6m tickets on one day in December.

One of the most reported phenomena’s this year was the scale of virtual hongbao (red envelopes filled with cash).  ¥4 billion ($642 million) worth of virtual hongbao were sent over 24-hours through Alibaba’s Alipay, twenty times more than last year’s ¥200 million. Even more impressive was the rise of hongbao sent on WeChat.  2014’s record of 20 million pales in comparison with the more than a billion sent through WeChat in less than 17 hours this Spring Festival, bolstered by a CCTV campaign giving away $80 million in virtual hongbao provided by corporate sponsors. 

This all helps Chinese consumers get used to transacting on their smartphone through WeChat.  WeChat was estimated to influence $1.76 billion in lifestyle and entertainment spending alone last year according to Tencent. 

The Year of the Sheep will see more smartphone users flock to WeChat, which is showing no signs of having its lead shorn in China’s social media sphere; this year at least.  In recognition of this, we thought a good way to see in the Lunar Year, was an infograph with everything you need to know about WeChat – well almost.

For our Shanghai-based readers, another fine way to kick off the Year of the Sheep is learning more about the Chinese consumer in 2015.  China Skinny’s Mark Tanner will be talking at the Shanghai Forum next Tuesday, 10 March at 7:00pm.  Mark will explain trends for Chinese consumers and discuss how to best reach them.  More info here.  We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Consumers,: Chinese Consumers

Understanding Trust, In China and the WestGenerally speaking, the default relationship in the West is for ‘trust’. In China, it tilts towards ‘distrust’, with the need to develop a personal relationship first, then you do business.

The World’s New TastemakerChinese consumers born post-90s has grown to more than 200 million, and are expected to outnumber American baby boomers three times over by 2022.  Their changing tastes are likely to influence markets everywhere.

Online: Internet, Social Media & Ecommerce

Infograph: WeChat User Demographics, Usage, Official Accounts & Advertising: Everything you need to know about WeChat this year, well almost.

Quarter of Online Shoppers Spend at Least US$1,000 Buying OverseasOne in four online shoppers spend more than $1,000 buying overseas purchases according to a Forrester Research survey.

Premium Food & Beverage

Chinese Demand for New Tastes Driving Increase in Food and Drink ImportsOnce the preserve of cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, it is now common to find imported food shops, foreign-food sections in supermarkets, and authentic international restaurants in third and fourth-tier cities.

Nestle Adds High-End Snacks as Chinese Consumers Opt for PremiumNestle is revamping food and beverages in China such as chocolate and coffee after sales stagnated last year because younger consumers are increasingly opting for higher-end, more nutritious and healthier items.

New Ecommerce Platform to Shake Up Imported Fruit BusinessKuajingtong, a new platform for imported fruit setup in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, will make imported fruit cheaper for Chinese consumers.

Getting More Canadian Food Onto the Chinese Retail ShelfWith some noteworthy exceptions, Canadian food and beverages largely remain off the radar for most Chinese consumers and retailers. Exports of Canadian lobster have almost doubled annually since 2010. Among upscale retailers visited by the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, over 70% of the food on their shelves was imported.

Overseas Chinese Tourists

Over 5 Million Chinese Went Overseas to Shop During CNYNot all Chinese travelled home for family reunions over the Spring Festival, with more than 5 million heading abroad. 450,000 were estimated to travel to Japan, clearing out stores of high end rice cookers, digital cameras and toilet seats. Chinese tourists now account for 40% of all luxury sales in France, 35% in Italy and 25% in the UK.

Travel Industry Performance on Weibo 2014Overseas tourism operators accounted for 5% of travel institution Weibo accounts, but their activeness, coverage, popularity and impact were all well above industry average.

Social Media Campaign Doubles Eurostar’s Chinese Direct SalesA Eurostar campaign that encouraged online Chinese to vote on short videos of participants favourite spot in Paris or London attracted over 50 million viewers on Weibo.

Schools and Education

China’s Wealthy Parents Are Fed Up With State-Run EducationAlthough China’s education minister demanded that universities shun “Western values” in late January, Western-style, alternative learning is a big trend.

Retail &: Fashion

China’s Corruption Crackdown a Boon for LingerieChinese consumers’ increasingly discrete purchases of luxury goods has seen demand for premium underwear soar in the Middle Kingdom, with brands such as La Perla seeing 42% growth last year in Greater China. High end undergarments, including bras priced over ¥300 ($48) now account for 30% of lingerie sales. Per capita spending on lingerie jumped 79% from 2009 to 2013.

Beauty Health

Why Is Nearsightedness Skyrocketing Among Chinese Youth?86% of China’s high school kids are near-sighted according to Xinhua. By comparison, 29% of ethnically Chinese students in Singapore and 3% in Sydney are near-sighted.

Recreation & Entertainment

China Monthly Box Office Tops U.S. for First Time EverChina’s $650 million February box office takings just pipped the $640 million from the U.S., making China the biggest movie market in the world for the month. The record month was on the back of the Spring Festival holiday which has become China’s peak cinema-going period. Foreign films are typically barred during the holiday.

Cars &: Auto

Chinese Cars Fall Farther BehindLocal-brand passenger vehicles accounted for 38% of China’s auto market in 2014, down from 46% in 2010. Chinese brand’s share of sedans dropped from 31% to 22%. Although improving from 155 problems per 100 cars in 2013 to 131 last year, local brands still trailed far behind foreign brands’ 95 problems per 100.

That’s the Skinny for the week! See previous newsletters hereContact China Skinny for marketing, research and digital advice and implementation.