Brands and retailers are gearing up for next month’s Qixi Festival – China’s equivalent of Valentine’s Day – but changing cultural attitudes and lockdown-induced behavioural shifts point towards the growth of new gifting habits.

While luxury brands like Fendi and Montblanc have launched limited edition products that will no doubt sell well, the effects of the one-child policy and a high divorce rate mean there are hundreds of millions of single adults for whom the festival is just another day.

And China Skinny reports that its research has indicated a shift in young people’s priorities this year, with diminished aspirations for marriage and children. “Instead, self-improvement is on the rise (accelerated through lengthy lockdowns and self-reflection) be it in fitness, picking up some extra studies or turning oneself into a home chef,” writes the agency’s Andrew Atkinson in a blog post.

“We expect to see a big rise in ‘self-love’ campaigns this Qixi Festival,” he adds.

Atkinson also notes a recent study conducted by the China Family Planning Association, Tsinghua University’s Research Center for Public Health, and China Youth Network, which opened a window into the sex lives of the nation’s students.

This survey (of 54,580 students from 1,764 universities nationwide) found that while the majority identified as heterosexual, one in five didn’t (4.5% gay, 9% bisexual, 6% unsure of their sexual orientation).

The LGBT movement is growing – witness the 49 million registered users of gay dating app Blued – but it needs to tread delicately and avoid overt activism; it’s only a couple of decades since homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder and gay scenes are still being cut from movies. 

This is one area where many Western brands are ahead of their Chinese rivals, having worked with Pride movements around the world, for example, to better understand LGBT needs and develop appropriate marketing strategies.

They can take those local in China, where, Atkinson suggests, LGBT communities “can often be more interested in and aligned with Western brands and their values”.

The same survey also highlighted a lack of understanding of sex-related issues in schools, which suggests a possible opportunity for an enterprising and brave brand.

“Sex education in China is unsatisfactory,” Guo Yueping, a researcher from China Youth Network who specializes in adolescent sexual and reproductive health, told Sixth Tone.

“We need to pay more attention to sex education and broaden the learning channels through online mediums, as well as social media.”

Sourced from China Skinny, Sixth Tone; additional content by WARC staff