SHANGHAI: Status no longer drives Chinese consumers to buy international clothing brands, but they are still willing to pay a premium of more than 20%, a new survey has found.

Almost half of Chinese consumers say they prefer global apparel brands over domestic brands, and their willingness to pay extra is because of perceptions about the superior quality and design of foreign clothing.

These are some of the key findings from a survey of 2,600 Chinese consumers from 22 cities that was conducted by London-based OC&C Strategy Consultants, Inside Retail Asia reported.

The survey also revealed that consumers in China buy clothing almost once a month, spending about 6-7% of their disposable income, and while price is no longer their top concern, a full 60% still actively compare prices and seek out promotions.

Almost three-quarters (65%) also research online before making a purchase, leading Jack Chuang, a Shanghai-based partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, to urge global brands not to underestimate the power of domestic social media, such as WeChat and Weibo.

"Foreign apparel brands may benefit from Chinese consumers' growing sophistication," he said. "They are starting to place more importance on quality and design, while price is no longer their top priority."

There has been a recent trend among international luxury retailers to scale back their physical offline presence in China, but the survey revealed that bricks-and-mortar stores still have an important role in the path to purchase.

That's because some 57% of respondents said their awareness of international clothing brands comes through simply passing a physical store, South China Morning Post reported.

That compares with 43% who said they learn about new domestic brands from Chinese social media sites, and 32% who get information from search engines, such as Baidu.

Part of the attraction of physical stores for Chinese consumers, it seems, is so they can meet their friends there while also touching, viewing and trying on clothing in-store.

Data sourced from Inside Retail Asia, South China Morning Post; additional content by Warc staff