BEIJING: Shoppers in China retain a preference for foreign brands, and are willing to meet a price premium for well-known, niche and green products, a survey has shown.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council polled 1,600 middle class consumers in eight major cities, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai.

Some 85% of interviewees had purchased international brands in the last year, with apparel the top individual category, on 74%.

Another 57% typically preferred "generally recognised famous brands", primarily because they are believed to provide a stronger degree of quality assurance.

Fully 52% of those polled favoured big-name offerings even if they are more expensive, and the same number would rather opt for imported goods even though the price tag was usually higher.

The report also suggested that shoppers are becoming "increasingly sophisticated". Quality was still the main consideration for 76% of buyers, while 68% regarded knowledgeable sales staff as important.

An additional 60% like using products and services that are "more specialised", even if they command a premium, and 76% were willing to pay more for green brands.

Elsewhere, a 71% share of the panel are now more attentive to how comfortable a restaurant is than previously, and 54% of contributors would rather acquire less well-known brands to a fake.

Television remains the primary channel through which participants obtain information, but word of mouth from relatives, friends and colleagues is the most effective source of influence.

Online ads were also an influential channel, while 83% of respondents had made purchases on the web, and 27% did so once a month. When picking a digital vendor, after-sales service was key for 68%.

Social networks or instant messaging software was used by 58% of the sample to share good or bad product experiences, and 63% would be interested trying goods they are recommended on Weibo or WeChat.

Data sourced from Hong Kong Trade Development Council; additional content by Warc staff