03
Jan
2014

The gift of the Chinese consumer at Christmas

When I first visited China in 1989, there was no Christmas in China. There might have been a tree set up in the lobby of a western hotel, but the concept was not really understood, and certainly not engaged in by the Chinese people, the big event was Chinese New Year.

Over the past ten years at least, Christmas has become part of Chinese life, at least for those who were born since malls started to use it as a way to increase footfall. Young children teenagers, and even those in their early thirties who now have kids of their own, all love the romanticism and warmth of Christmas. It’s a time to be self indulgent, to give gifts to lovers and to spend time with partners, husbands, wives and close friends.

Luxury brands therefore have two opportunities to dip into the funds of the Chinese consumer, because no soon as Christmas is over, the Chinese New Year is on its heels. So do these brands, and other luxury retailers really take advantage of this opportunity unique to the Chinese? Certainly in China this year, it appears to me that many brands missed the boat. Young Chinese want the snow, the romantic images and the homely feelings, they are not dissimilar to those in western cultures, yet other than dressing windows festively, not many engaged with the festive spirit.

Maybe they thought that given a slowing economy consumers would choose Chinese New Year over Christmas, and perhaps the older generations did, but the young people are more interested in rewarding themselves, relaxing and having fun, Chinese New Year is more about long established tradition and duty, so the two are quite different. Spending money at Christmas is emotional, and something that brands need to acknowledge.

Having returned to the UK for the Christmas holidays I have read about and seen many young Chinese spending in the stores during the sales. There is no shortage of money, or people in there twenties and thirties spending on bags, clothing and cosmetics. Many brands are benefiting from the slowing of the Chinese domestic economy and Christmas, as these consumers take advantage of the time of year and the great savings. It’s a win-win for them and a bonus for the brands.

My advice to any luxury brand is that the Chinese affinity with Christmas is here to stay, its doesn’t have exactly the same connotations to them as it might in the west, but it’s a period of the year when connecting with individual emotions will pay dividends, whether its in mainland China or outside of the country. Don’t pay lip service to the season of goodwill, it happens in China as well!

Ken Grant
Ken is the publisher of Luxury Insights China, he is regularly asked for his comments and opinions of the luxury sector in China by the media, and speaks at conferences on the subject. His international marketing experience covers 25 years, and most territories of the world.

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