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Economic slowdown fails to dent consumer spending

Hu Yuanyuan
Updated: Feb 3,2016 7:30 AM     China Daily

Chinese consumers’ willingness to spend in 2015 reached the highest level in the past four years despite the economic slowdown, a study from The Nielsen Co showed on Feb 2.

“This is a result of China’s commitment to shift from an investment-driven to consumption-driven economy,” said Kiki Fan, managing director of Nielsen China.

“Booming online shopping provides more variety and convenience to customers, thus fueling their spending desire.”

Compared to 2014, consumers’ willingness to spend was up by two percentage points to 48 percent, the highest level over the past four years, according to Nielsen data. That indicated that although China’s economic growth fell to 6.9 percent last year, consumers’ desire to spend was unaffected.

“Meanwhile, consumers’ bulging wallets also supported their strong willingness to spend,” Fan added.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the average disposable income of residents increased by 7.4 percent in real terms to 21,966 yuan ($3,480) in 2015, higher than the country’s GDP growth.

And most respondents to the Nielsen survey said the job market was excellent (9 percent) or good (55 percent), and their personal finance was also excellent (5 percent) or good (58 percent).

The Nielsen consumer confidence index measures perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances and immediate spending intentions.

Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism, respectively.

According to the company’s latest figures, the Chinese Consumer Confidence Index stood at 107 in the fourth quarter of 2015, a rise of one percentage point from the third quarter.

Worldwide, global consumer confidence ended 2015 on a subdued note as the index declined two percentage points from the third quarter to 97.

Among the world’s largest economies, China ranked first (107), followed by the United Kingdom (101) and the United States (100), which all showed quarter-on-quarter confidence declines.

Before 2015, the willingness to spend for people born in the 1980s surpassed all age groups, but the trend came to an end in 2015 as people born in the 1970s caught up with their younger peers.

Looking at the willingness to spend by gender and age, the Nielsen study showed that the index increased quickly among female consumers, especially those born in the 1970s as they moved quickly into the digital world and online shopping.

“Affluent female urbanites are often seen as China’s most important demographic for retailers. Chinese women born in the 1970s are increasingly empowered financially and they are driving the explosive growth of e-commerce,” said Fan.

With buoyant willingness to spend, 59 percent of them said that in 2016 they plan to invest more on children’s education, 54 percent will increase spending on phone charges and 51 percent will splurge on clothing.

In the long term, they said will spend more on entertainment, health and life quality improvement categories like cosmetics, the study showed.

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