So who exactly is driving consumer behavior?
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.”
Chinese customers line up in a Prada store in Italy.