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Lifestyle changes drive China spending

News, 29 March 2017

BEIJING: Consumer spending in China is expected to shift towards products and services that embrace health and the environment according to a new study.

The seventh Emerging Consumer Survey from Credit Suisse Research Institute, was based on research gathered by Nielsen in face-to-face interviews with consumers in eight countries, including 2,561 in China (the others were Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Turkey).

China had by far the most buoyant consumer environment, scoring an average of 64% across a range of factors, from consumer confidence through retail sales to wage and credit growth, up from 49% last year.

The study further noted a relatively affluent group of 20-30 year olds "replenishing China's future middle class" and contributing 35% of total consumption in the next five years.

"It is clear that, as consumers become wealthier, they want to upgrade their lifestyles and spending on more large ticket items that have longer life spans versus the traditional fast-moving consumer goods with a low ticket size," the report said.

In this context, that means education, cars, property and phones, but running alongside that is the emergence across all eight countries of what the report termed "the conscious consumer", with potentially significant implications for brands.

"This is apparent through a greater focus on skin care, good food, sportswear and using car-sharing services rather than owning vehicles," it noted.

In China, for example, 80% of respondents agreed that they had started to eat more healthily, Xinhua reported, while 40% indicated an intention to spend more time playing sports.

And while the country's population is ageing, leading to increased demand for healthcare services, the relaxation of the one child policy is beginning to have an effect on the birth rate, up 8% in 2016 after years of being stable.

The survey found that 25% of respondents planned to have more than one child, while 21% were undecided; 43% only wanted one child.

Several sectors stand to benefit from this shift in coming years, including children's clothing, sportswear, home improvement, appliance manufacturers, education and healthcare.

Family remains an essential component of the lives of Chinese consumers: when asked how they would spend incremental disposable income, 41% said they would spend it on their children and 40% on their parents.

Data sourced from Credit Suisse Research Institute, Xinhua; additional content by WARC staff