So who ex­actly is driv­ing consumer be­hav­ior?

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS -

yan­dongjie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Laura Lian said Chi­nese con­sumers of­ten dis­play er­ratic consumer be­hav­ior be­cause they are only just com­ing to terms with the con­cept of brands.

The 25-year-old en­tre­pre­neur, who blogs on mod­ern Chi­nese cul­ture, in­sisted there has been some­thing of a rev­o­lu­tion in a rel­a­tively short time.

She said she be­lieves many con­sumers are ex­per­i­ment­ing with liv­ing a mod­ern life­style for the first time, and that is why many of their choices may seem less ra­tio­nal than the more con­ven­tional and es­tab­lished be­hav­ior of Western con­sumers.

“All of a sud­den, every­body has money and they don’t know how to use it. Young peo­ple want to be­have like Western­ers be­cause the older peo­ple don’t know how to live a mod­ern life be­cause the Chi­nese econ­omy has grown so fast in 20 years.”

Feng Shuxia, 61, who was out brows­ing with her hus­band, Tian Shun­sheng, also 61, agreed it is the younger gen­er­a­tion that is driv­ing consumer be­hav­ior.

The cou­ple’s 35-year-old daugh­ter, who works for a bank, has bought Feng a Louis Vuit­ton hand­bag and two Gucci hand­bags in re­cent years.

The cou­ple said that buy­ing ex­pen­sive items in China is not a new phe­nom­e­non. When Tian, who later also worked for a bank be­fore his re­tire­ment, left the army in 1979 he was given 400 yuan in com­pen­sa­tion and bought Feng a 270 yuan watch.

“That would be about 20,000 yuan ($3,100) to­day,” Feng said. “At the time we were only earn­ing 30 or 40 yuan a month.”

Yu Zhipeng, a sales­man for an IT com­pany in Bei­jing orig­i­nally from Shan­dong prov­ince, be­lieves “Chi­nese peo­ple are prob­a­bly more keen on face-sav­ing than Western con­sumers, which means they pay at­ten­tion to their look, what they wear and what other items they buy such as mo­bile phones. It has been part of their cul­ture for­ever”.

Zhao Na, 22, a part-time of­fice worker who is study­ing horticulture at col­lege, ad­mited to be­ing some­thing of a fol­lower of fash­ion, pick­ing up ideas from var­i­ous me­dia.

“I tend to fol­low the main­stream fash­ion trends on­line or in mag­a­zines. I keep an eye on pop­u­lar food, clothes and makeup.”

Her part­ner, Rao Xin, also 22 and a horticulture stu­dent, be­lieves it is women and not men who are be­hind some of the volatile consumer be­hav­iors in China.

He said his re­cent ma­jor pur­chases was just a straight­for­ward choice that a Western consumer of his age and de­mo­graphic would make.

“This is not just about Chi­nese. Men and women are dif­fer­ent when buy­ing things. We (men) tend to be more rea­son­able and less emo­tional than women and cer­tainly less in­flu­enced by ad­ver­tis­ing. If I see some­thing I like, I will de­cide whether I need it first be­fore buy­ing it.”

Feng and Tian, the re­tired cou­ple, like many Chi­nese, now of­ten make ex­pen­sive pur­chases while hol­i­day­ing abroad, par­tic­u­larly in Europe.

Tian has spent 50,000 yuan on an Omega watch (75,000 yuan in China) and two Louis Vuit­ton belts for 2,500 yuan each in Spain in 2013, which would cost dou­ble at home.

“It makes a lot of sense to buy lux­u­ries such as th­ese when abroad be­cause they are far cheaper than they are in China, so you can com­bine a hol­i­day with mak­ing such pur­chases.”

Lian, the cul­tural blog­ger, said she is not sure Chi­nese are that dif­fer­ent from Western­ers. She had just spent 500 yuan on some Uniqlo jeans and un­der­wear as she found her­self with some time on her hands.

“I was just bored. I was in be­tween meet­ings, and if I could spend a lit­tle money and make my­self happy, why not? I sup­pose you could say the pur­chase was driven by my emo­tions, if you want. It is es­sen­tially re­tail ther­apy.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Chi­nese cus­tomers line up in a Prada store in Italy.

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