Chinese consumers are paying more attention to cultural and leisure activities than in the past, according to a new report that underscores China’s transformation from a primarily manufacturing economy to one more focused on services and creativity.

Based on an online survey of 3,000 adults aged 20 to 49, research firm Mintel revealed that three in five (60%) urban Chinese respondents say they visited more cafes in the past six months, while more than half increased their visits to libraries (56%) and bookstores (55%).

In addition, two in five (40%) say they have been visiting more museums, while more than a third (36%) have been making more trips to art galleries.

“Chinese consumers, today, are paying more attention to cultural and leisure lifestyles and, therefore, are spending more money on leisure and entertainment,” said Chih-yuan Wang, category research director of retail at Mintel China Reports.

In terms of hard numbers, Mintel calculated that total spending in China’s leisure and entertainment sector reached an estimated RMB 2,048 billion (US$288.6bn) last year, having grown 9.7% since 2017.

Wang explained that the consumer trend is being driven by a desire to take time out from hectic modern lifestyles and to pursue “a degree of slow-paced escapism”.

“We are seeing the emergence of new-format bookstores and lifestyle stores featuring comfortable spaces, aligning with consumers’ pursuit of leisure and better living,” he said. “It’s not just about selling products; it’s also about selling a way of life.”

And it appears that consumers in lower tier Chinese cities are even more active than their counterparts in Tier 1 cities when it comes to visiting cultural and creative venues.

The Mintel research found that 61% of respondents from Tier 2 cities visited libraries over the past six months compared to around half (51%) of those in Tier 1 cities – and there is a similar disparity regarding visits to bookstores and art galleries.

“There is also great potential for the cultural and creative market in China’s lower-tier cities,” said Wang, who pointed out that these consumers tend to have more personal free time.

“In addition, lower-tier city consumers are ready to adopt more aspirational lifestyles. [This is] something that the cultural and creative industry should take note of.”

Sourced from Mintel; additional content by WARC staff