Tag Archives: consumption

Diamond Sales Get Huge China Boost

Xinhua Reports 12.7% Rise In Imports In First Half Of 2009 To $300 Million As China Eyes Top Spot In Global Diamond Consumption

Diamonds are becoming more popular -- and accessible -- every year in China

Diamonds are becoming more popular -- and accessible -- every year in China

Good economic news in China this year has translated to good news for diamond producers, if figures released recently by China’s news agency, Xinhua, are correct. This year, following a nearly 50% decline in diamond sales in the US and 24% drop in Japan — according to China’s Global Times — China has become the world’s third largest diamond market with $300 million in sales through the first half of the year. Although this might sound like a lot, particularly in the context of the global economic slowdown, the Chinese market still has a lot of room to grow. Despite rough figures in the US over the past year, the American market still accounts for nearly half of world diamond sales, so the emerging Chinese and Indian markets will take several years of sustained growth to reach the capacity and consumer awareness of the established American and Japanese markets, a prospect that must please diamond producers immensely.

According to the Global Times, less informed middle class Chinese consumers are likely to be the easiest to reach for years to come, as diamonds are still relatively new to the Chinese market (about as new as the middle class itself). As younger Chinese buyers slowly become more informed about diamond grading and quality standards, the market is likely develop and mature:

Diamonds, once a luxury rarely owned by a Chinese family, has now become a must for Chinese newlyweds. According to [Wang Fei, researcher at the Cheungkei Research Center for Luxury Goods and Services (SITE) in the University of International Business and Economics,] the largest population of diamond buyers is newlywed couples born in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Emerging-Market Investors Bullish On China’s Middle Class

Rapid Growth Of Still-Nascent Middle Class Signals Opportunity For Investors And Family Offices In China

Many investors are banking on the prospects for Chinese middle class consumption

Many investors are banking on the prospects for Chinese middle class consumption

We’ve kept a close eye on China’s burgeoning middle class, which — despite its recent appearance on the world stage — already numbers in the hundreds of millions, presenting a vast and unique potential consumer base for companies selling everything from cars to jewelry, household goods to fashion. While the Chinese middle class is expected by many to play a major role in the global economic recovery, their buying (and saving) habits, investment strategies, and long-term financial goals by and large remain poorly understood. Today, the Wall Street Journal looks into emerging market investors who eschew the popular financial planning target customer — the wealthy or ultra-rich — to serve the Chinese middle class, and investors in the West who are banking on the continued growth of this consumer class.

In coming years, it seems inevitable that the increased consumption of China’s hundreds of millions of middle class investors will affect, in some way, investors and money managers in other countries. If that is indeed the case, it pays to read up on this subject now, when the market is just starting to be defined and more fully understood:

Encouraged by the steps the Chinese government has taken to boost consumption, some equity-fund managers are putting money into sectors related to domestic demand, such as retail, automobiles and financials.

Chinese industrialization in recent years has lifted the average income of millions, propelling them into the ranks of a swelling middle class some say could grow to be the largest in the world.

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Chinese Spending Buoys LVMH

Growth Among Chinese Luxury Customers Pushes Them Beyond Japanese, Americans To Become Top Consumers Of LVMH Brands

Chinese drinkers have made the country Hennessy's top market, surpassing the United States

Chinese drinkers have made the country Hennessy's top market, surpassing the United States

LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A., the mighty global juggernaut, has had a bit of a rough year in the traditionally reliable markets of North America, Japan and Europe. Despite cutbacks in spending in these established markets, however, there have been bright areas for LVMH, namely in emerging markets like China and the other BRIC nations and pockets of Southeast Asia. In regions where LVMH has only operated for a few years, or a few decades at the most, newly rich consumers are opening their wallets and flaunting their wealth in a way never seen before — and all of this translates to high hopes for luxury’s standard bearer.

In the wake of the global economic crisis, China has leapfrogged its developed-world counterparts in many high-end segments, driven mainly by the country’s second-tier urban growth, which — fueled mostly by commodity industries like coal which have not been as badly affected by the downturn — continue to grow and attract foreign investment. Second- and third-tier cities, which have seen high-end foreign boutiques opening up only in the last few years, have been a boon to major foreign brands because customers in these smaller cities present virtually no signs of “luxury fatigue” and feel that expensive luxury brands are an excellent way of conveying their newly found status — the flashier the better.

Earlier this year, China surpassed the United States as the world’s second-largest luxury market, and the country has Japan, #1, firmly in its sights. Many analysts believe that China, given current growth figures, should overtake Japan as the world’s top luxury market within five years. So what does this all mean for luxury brands? Today, the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Curtin looks into LVMH’s “China Syndrome,” and make the case that where LVMH goes, so goes the luxury industry:

Chinese customers, both at home and on holiday in the shopping malls around the world, have become the biggest buyers of Louis Vuitton clothes and handbags and Hennessy cognac ahead of the Japanese and overtaking Americans.

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More American Vintners Looking To Expand In China Market

Growing Interest In “Pú Tao Jiǔ” Among Urban Chinese Spurring Wineries To Intensify Their China Expansion Strategies

By next year, wine imports to China are projected to reach 250,000 tons

By next year, wine imports to China are projected to reach 250,000 tons

China’s growing middle class has emerged over the last 20 years to be one of the world’s most closely-watched demographics, with marketers in virtually every industry keeping a keen eye on every purchasing trend they make. In more recent years, one of the industries that has benefitted the most from this sizeable group’s interest in all things foreign has been wine. Although the vast majority of Chinese are either unfamiliar with foreign wine or simply do not drink it very often (if at all), many vintners see great potential in the market, as target customers in more remote urban areas remain underserved by existing bars, liquor stores or supermarkets, and returnees who’ve traveled, worked or studied abroad often come back to China wine aficionados with a taste for wine.

Although per capita wine consumption in China remains miniscule by comparison, in China’s major cities it is becoming a more popular beverage, particularly in business or family settings, and in recent auctions of fine wine mainland Chinese buyers have increased exponentially, gaining notoriety among seasoned wine investors as intense bidders (and avid drinkers). Trying to maximize their appeal in China while reaching new markets, wineries outside China are working overtime to get their products to the mainland market while promoting wine drinking in China and building sustained brand equity.

As most of these vintners remain completely unknown within China regardless of their size overseas, the Chinese market represents a blank slate of sorts, allowing them to brand themselves at will without the stigmas that may exist in other markets. A good example of this is American wineries, who are often shunned for their European counterparts among American wine aficionados. As the China wine trade has opened up in the last 10 or so years, vintners from California and Washington state in particular have worked to get their bottles in the hands of the emerging Chinese wine drinker, to mixed success. California’s Lodi News-Sentinel, interviewing Van Ruiten Wineries’ Kevin Sherwood, today illustrates some of the opportunities the Chinese market presents for American and other foreign wine producers:

Around 2006 [Sherwood] developed a desire to market to China. It was around the time of the Beijing Olympics that Sherwood started to sense an opportunity. “It’s just as easy to sell to China as it is to go and sell to the restaurants in San Francisco and Walnut Creek,” he said.

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“Something’s Brewing” (Literally) In China

Popularity Of Coffee In the Chinese Market Leads To Rapid “Luxurification” Of The Standard American Coffee Shop

Chinese coffee chains like Ming Tien tend to promote their food and coffee in equal measures, but their comparatively high prices make it difficult for them to rival juggernauts like Starbucks

Chinese coffee chains like Ming Tien tend to promote their food and coffee in equal measures, but their comparatively high prices make it difficult to rival juggernauts like Starbucks

While any visitor to China’s biggest cities will quickly become accustomed to seeing familiar sights like Starbucks on virtually every corner, until recently coffee has remained something of a luxury in the world’s most populous  nation. Although tea has reigned supreme in China for thousands of years, after 30 years of internationalization the country has opened up to new beverages at a never-before-seen rate: whiskey has become the drink of choice for many of China’s business and political elite, Chinese collectors are snapping up prize bottles at fine wine auctions, China consumes more beer than any other country on earth, soft drink companies like Coca-Cola lean on their reliable China profits, and now coffee is quickly becoming less of a niche drink and more of a daily necessity for millions of Chinese.

Though coffee is less widely consumed in China than other beverages, Chinese coffee chains have multiplied in number in the last 20 years, with large mainland companies like Ming Tien Coffee Language and Taiwan’s UBC Coffee becoming somewhat ubiquitous even in smaller second- and third-tier cities that are less westernized than Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. China International Business today looks into the sustainability of this growing interest in coffee in China, and how companies like Starbucks and other major foreign chains have capitalized on their “foreignness” to promote coffee as a sophisticated, “western” drink that stands in stark contrast to tea:

According to the April 2009 Euromonitor International Report, the total volume of coffee sold in China grew over 10% in 2008, a hefty figure compared to the world average of roughly 2%, and Starbucks — which opened their first Chinese mainland coffee shop in 1999 in Beijing — isn’t the only one leading the charge, far from it in fact.

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China’s Stimulus Plan: Spurring Consumption?

All Eyes On Chinese Consumer Data, Particularly In The Luxury And High-End Segments, As Consumption In Other Markets Remains Sluggish

China's traditionally high individual savings rate is showing signs of easing somewhat, as middle-class and wealther consumers head back to stores

China's traditionally high individual savings rate is showing signs of easing somewhat, as middle-class and wealther consumers head back to stores

A number of outlets have given their thoughts on what it will take for Chinese consumers to cut back on their traditionally high savings rate and spend more of their disposable income, with some writing that it will take the creation of a bigger social safety net by the government and others advocating patience and still others defending high savings rates. Today, Susan Weerts writes in Seeking Alpha that data coming out of China this month suggests that consumers there are — without any major need for a socio-cultural shift, spending more on consumer items. This may mean that more confidence in the Chinese economy on the part of the consumer could be largely responsible for more spending in major cities and markets there.

As Weerts writes, the strongest growth in July retail sales was found in furniture, motor vehicles and building/decoration materials, which grew at 42.5%, 32% and 25% respectively, year over year. This massive growth, Weerts proposes, should give luxury brands some cause for (tentative) celebration:

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