Older and wiser, now

The Redwood blog
Published:  13 May, 2014

JinJing - she calls herself Tiffany when you talk to her in English - is well off for a 27 year old in Beijing. She was born and brought up in Hubei on a small farm. Her parents saved to send her to college in Beijing to learn languages and she now works as a translator. As a cool 80s generation Chinese she knows about designer goods and fashion. With a bit of careful saving she can afford most of what she wants, and buys quite a bit of it. Yet she is not over-ostentatious nor is she interested in overfilling her small apartment with stuff.

At the same time with public transport in Beijing being good and car transport dreadfully clogged she has no interest in buying a car. Urban Chinese appear very similar to their counterparts in Europe and in the USA in this regard. Where there is anything like decent public transport they will use it rather than being loaded with the on costs of automobiles. Peak miles driven in the USA was back in 2007 and there is no real indication that the trend will reverse. Whereas a motor was a vital method of transport and claiming your identity in the past today young people have gadgets and technology instead. It is a major shift in China as every ACLE visitor will have seen in the Shanghai subway. And the technology is fully used. Mobile commerce has raced ahead in China and has already transferred from a novelty to a necessity. It is a cool thing in China to be a high tech trendsetter.

Mobile shopping makes life much easier for a busy single young woman like JinJing, and helps with work life balance. This is increasingly important to Chinese youth who have started moving away from the long hours of factory work to a quieter life in service industries, even if the pay is poorer. Hence Chinese shoe factories are paying staff more yet are still short of workers.

Retail experiences remain important, and a good way to socialise. So increasingly shops stay open late in the evening and are working extra hard to make the store atmosphere special. If the retailer is not open, or does not achieve the "amiable" expectation more shopping moves online.

When the stores do get things right the retail experience is often now being shared with food, both consuming and cooking. A typical global trend as we move away from conspicuous consumption, evidenced by buying "stuff", is a move towards experiences and searching out more unique ways of spending. Experiences such as food have come to the fore but so have some Chinese brands now reaching top quality levels and offering articles suited to the huge move to more individualism.

Some of these trends were recently highlighted in an excellent report by MEC, but JingJing could have saved them the time. She would not have chosen their titles for the trends, but she would recognise every one:

Move like Geeks

Buying Balance

Wake up the Night

Experiential Consumption

Power of the Niche

Master Chef & Foodie

New Fashion of Chinese Brand

More Transparency, Please!

One-Finger Consumption

 

And JingJing would add one thing more, as she has already told her younger brother (small farmers who have a daughter first have been allowed a second child). In China you now need to consider the future. Time was when you were so optimistic you knew you would become a successful capitalist and get rich, and the one child policy meant that anyway you would have a decent inheritance. Chinese youth are awakening to being part of an ageing society where health and pension costs are a major issue for the future. So now is time to get it right.

Hence the recent problem at Yue Yuen. The company is a first rate one, working closely with the municipality to do things correctly. Between them they managed to make pension contributions on an old remuneration scale. So now that has been corrected, at very high costs.

JinJing and her educated, technology savvy, articulate friends are now looking out for their futures. They are going to be very important leather buyers for the next forty years or so. And they expect to be listened to. 

Mike Redwood

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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