Reports

    China News Brief
    June 19, 2024

    China’s 618 festival sees cautious spending amid uncertainty; Chinese, EU automakers clash over EV duties; ‘Luxury shame’ trend emerges among China’s affluent.
    A passenger walks by a JD.com advertisement for upcoming 618 Shopping Festival at a subway station on May 30, 2021 in Beijing, China. Images: Getty Images

    China’s 618 festival sees cautious spending amid uncertainty#

    China's mid-year e-commerce sales festival  failed to generate significant excitement among shoppers despite extended offers, reflecting a cautious consumer sentiment amid economic uncertainty. Named after JD.com’s founding date, the 618 festival is a key indicator of household consumption, but faced challenges with a diminishing buzz and ongoing consumer belt-tightening. Although JD.com reported record turnover and order volumes, the exact growth rates were undisclosed. Analysts expect a modest GMV growth similar to last year's 5.4%. Major platforms like JD.com and Alibaba extended sales periods and eliminated pre-sales phases to adapt to market conditions. Despite some sectors outperforming, overall enthusiasm was low, partly due to frequent discounts and an abundance of shopping festivals.

    Chinese, EU automakers clash over EV duties#

    A closed-door meeting  was held yesterday between major Chinese and European automotive companies. According to attendees, the Chinese automakers and industry associations present expressed strong dissatisfaction with the preliminary anti-subsidy investigation findings disclosed by the EU regarding Chinese electric vehicles. They called on the government to take decisive countermeasures, suggesting a temporary tariff increase on the import of large-displacement gasoline vehicles. European automakers at the meeting opposed the EU’s imposition of provisional anti-subsidy duties on Chinese electric vehicles, urging both sides to commence negotiations promptly to prevent the escalation of Sino-European trade tensions. Both Chinese and European automotive companies jointly called for the opposition of trade protectionism and the maintenance of rules-based free trade.

    ‘Luxury shame’ trend emerges among China’s affluent#

    China’s wealthiest individuals are opting for more discreet fashion  to avoid flaunting their wealth, according to a Bain consultancy report predicting the weakest global luxury market since the pandemic. Global sales of high-end personal goods are expected to grow between 0% to 4% YoY, the slowest since 2020. Economic uncertainty in China has led middle-class shoppers to be cautious, and the wealthy are spending more abroad. The trend, termed “luxury shame,” has resulted in a shift away from ostentatious items. Despite a decline in the Chinese market, luxury brands like Hermès, which cater to high-end consumers, have seen gains, while US and European markets show signs of recovery driven by affluent clients and returning tourists.

    Tmall’s sees record 618 sales, small merchant growth#

    Tmall’s 618 shopping festival  report shows that by midnight on June 18, 365 brands had achieved sales exceeding 100 million RMB ($13.8 million), with over 36,000 brands doubling their sales versus last year. New 88VIP members grew by 65% YoY, reaching a record high. Tmall led in sales growth and scale in the beauty, digital, home appliances, and fresh food segments. This year, Taobao and Tmall integrated discounts, benefiting small and medium-sized merchants. Sales for 1.9 million Taobao merchants grew over 100% YoY, with nearly 30,000 surpassing 1 million RMB.

    JD.com drives 618 sales with discounts#

    In 2024, JD.com’s 618 event set new records  for sales and order volumes, with JD Live orders up over 200% YoY. Over 500 million users placed orders, with 83 brands exceeding 1 billion RMB ($137.8 million) in sales, and more than 150,000 small and medium-sized merchants growing sales by over 50%. The Billion Yuan Discount boosted low-priced brand options, with online products up over 100% and users and orders up over 150% YoY. The 9.9 Yuan Free Shipping channel saw over a million products and user numbers and orders increased by over 100 times YoY.

    Lamborghini-themed Lavazza drink debuts at Yum China#

    Yum China Holdings and Lavazza announced a new partnership  with Lamborghini to introduce the limited-time Lavazza Shakerato drink in China, starting yesterday. This collaboration is a creative twist on the classic Italian shaken iced coffee, served in a Lamborghini-themed shaker cup with three flavor options. Consumers participating in the campaign will also receive a co-branded smartphone accessory.

    Watsons launches pink stores to attract young Chinese consumers#

    Watsons will invest a total of $250 million by the end of 2024 to upgrade  6,000 stores. For Watsons stores in mainland China, Watsons has launched the Watsons Pink stores, with an overall design featuring pink as the main color to cater to young consumers’ preferences, and has stationed makeup artists to serve customers. In 2023, despite Watsons growing globally, the Chinese market remained the only market still in decline. Even with a slight increase in the number of stores and significant transformation efforts, the downward trend has not been reversed.

    Cettire launches in China as competitors exit#

    As competitors like Yoox Net-a-Porter exit China, luxury platform Cettire  has entered the market, launching its own platform earlier this year after partnering with JD.com. Despite investor confidence, Cettire faces challenges from rising Chinese luxury brands and a financially strained middle class. Its stock price has fallen nearly 23% this year, with a market value of about $559 million (A$860 million). Analysts note declining demand for brands like Gucci and Burberry in China, while Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermes, and Cartier remain stable. Cettire offers brands like Dior, Moncler, and Gucci, operating with no inventory and shipping directly to consumers.

    Dior taps Chinese Olympians as brand envoys#

    Dior yesterday announced that table tennis player Chen Meng and swimmer Zhang Yufei have become Dior China brand ambassadors . With the Paris Olympics approaching, Dior hopes that this announcement will cheer on the new generation of female athletes.

    Icicle reinterprets Chinese art in Shanghai Museum collab#

    Icicle has partnered with the Shanghai Museum to create a special collaboration series  inspired by the ancient charm of the silk tapestry painting Ducklings in a Lotus Pond (莲塘乳鸭图). Using silk crepe de chine craftsmanship, this collection beautifully reinterprets Chinese art, embodying the brand’s philosophy of “Harmony between Man and Nature.

    China’s urban unemployment rate drops#

    From January to May 2024, China’s urban surveyed unemployment  rate was 5.1%, down 0.3 percentage points from the previous year. In May alone, it was 5%, unchanged from April and down 0.2 points YoY. In 31 large cities, the rate was 4.9% in May, down 0.1 points from April and 0.6 points YoY. Analysts attribute the job market rebound to China’s stable economic recovery and targeted measures by the government. NBS spokesperson Liu Aihua noted that economic expansion, increased industrial production, and a recovering service sector have bolstered employment. The government aims to create over 12 million urban jobs and maintain the unemployment rate around 5.5% in 2024, with a significant emphasis on developing new sectors and job roles. The digital and green economies are expected to be major job creators, potentially employing 449 million people by 2030.

    ‘The Tale of Rose’ sparks debate on female empowerment #

    The new TV drama The Tale of Rose has quickly become a massive hit in China since its release in early June, topping the streaming charts  within 48 hours. Adapted from the 1981 novel by Yi Shu, the show focuses on female empowerment, portraying a young woman, Huang Yimei, who prioritizes her career over relationships. While the series has been praised for its nuanced depiction of female characters and its departure from stereotypical idol dramas, it has also faced criticism. Viewers have pointed out the protagonist’s implausible perfection and privileged background, which some find alienating and unrealistic. Additionally, there are complaints about the anachronistic settings and props that do not reflect the early 2000s period accurately. Despite these criticisms, the show remains popular, with a hashtag related to it garnering over 1 billion views on Weibo.

    Macau tourism rebounds in 2024, nearing pre-pandemic levels#

    The Macau Government Tourism Office reported that in the first five months of this year, 14.18 million tourists  visited Macau, a 50% increase YoY, with daily visitors averaging over 93,000, reaching about 82.5% of 2019’s levels. Mainland Chinese tourists grew by 62% to nearly 9.9 million, and Hong Kong tourists by nearly 5% to 2.98 million. The recovery was driven by traditional holidays and ongoing cultural events, boosting both tourism and consumer spending. Leong Wai Man, Director of the Macau Cultural Affairs Bureau, highlighted efforts to revitalize historical districts through cultural projects and cooperation with enterprises, aiming to promote the cultural industry and explore Western cultural relics in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau.

    Golden Goose delays IPO amid luxury sector challenges#

    Golden Goose Group has postponed its initial public offering  due to European market volatility. The company’s management cited the current market conditions as unsuitable for going public and will reassess the IPO later. Despite positive engagement with investors and strong support from Invesco, which committed 100 million euros ($107 million), market conditions deteriorated significantly after the recent European Parliament elections and the announcement of a general election in France, particularly affecting the luxury sector. Consequently, Golden Goose decided to delay the IPO process.