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With China undergoing an industrial transformation, shifting from a primarily manufacturing economy toward a more service- and creative-centric one, Chinese consumers are paying more attention to cultural and leisure lifestyles.

In fact, it seems Chinese consumers are now more encouraged to visit cultural and creative venues as latest research from the world’s leading market intelligence agency Mintel reveals that as many as three in five (60%) urban Chinese respondents* say that they have been visiting more cafés in the past six months*, while over half of respondents have increased visits to libraries (56%) and bookstores (55%). What’s more, two in five (40%) urban Chinese respondents say they have been visiting more museums and over a-third (36%) say the same of art galleries.

Meanwhile, lower tier cities in China present great potential for cultural and creative industries**. According to Mintel research, 61% of respondents from Tier 2 cities visited libraries more in the past six months as compared to just over half (51%) of respondents in Tier 1 cities. This is also happening at bookstores (59% Tier 2 vs 50% Tier 1) and art galleries (39% Tier 3 vs 32% Tier 1).

Chih-yuan Wang, Category Research Director, Retail, Mintel China Reports, said:

“Chinese consumers, today, are paying more attention to cultural and leisure lifestyles, and therefore, are spending more money on leisure and entertainment. As discussed in Mintel Trend ‘Slow it All Down’, as lives become faster and more hectic, there is a wider appreciation for taking one’s time. Cultural and creative products present the opportunity for Chinese consumers to enjoy a degree of slow-paced escapism—also why cafés, libraries and bookstores are now at the centre of cultural and creative leisure lifestyles in China. We are seeing the emergence of new-format bookstores and lifestyle stores featuring comfortable spaces, aligning with consumers’ pursuit of leisure and better living. It’s not just about selling products; it’s also about selling a way of life.

“There is also great potential for the cultural and creative market in China’s lower tier cities. Compared to consumers living in Tier 1 cities, lower tier city residents tend to have more laid-back lifestyles with less work stress and more personal free time; as such, they are more active when it comes to visiting cultural and creative venues. In addition, lower tier city consumers are ready to adopt more aspirational lifestyles—something that the cultural and creative industry should take note of.”

For the love of cinema

Research from Mintel’s flagship report shows that Chinese consumers are indeed spending more on leisure and entertainment; total expenditure in the sector reached an estimated RMB 2,048 billion in 2018, growing 9.7% from 2017. Mintel research also reveals that going to the cinema has become the most popular cultural activity, with three-quarters (74%) of urban Chinese respondents having purchased film tickets in the past six months*. This is followed by spending on exhibitions (40%) and concerts, operas, dramas or plays (35%).

“Despite the popularity of video streaming services, our research shows that Chinese consumers love going to the cinema. Going to the cinema is perceived as a leisure activity rather than a cultural one, showcasing the potential to explore the cultural aspects of cinema and the overall film industry. Transforming cinema from a leisure venue into a cultural venue will open up opportunities for the film- or play-related merchandise market.” Chih-yuan continued.

The emotional connection with entertainment IP merchandise

Finally, while Mintel research reveals that the majority (94%) of urban Chinese respondents have heard about the word IP (intellectual property)***, half (52%) say they do not have a favourite IP. China’s younger consumers are more inclined to have a favourite; seven in 10 (70%) Chinese respondents aged 20-24 and three in five (61%) of those aged 25-29 have favourite IPs. It seems the link between a consumer’s favourite IP and the purchase of IP merchandise is relatively strong; two in five (40%) respondents who have favourite IPs have purchased merchandise of their favourite IPs.

“The explosion of the cultural and entertainment industry has given rise to IP fever across China, with popular online novels being adapted into films, TV series, comics, as well as video games. Young Chinese consumers are more into pop culture and media consumption and, therefore, more likely to have favourite IPs. However, with limited resources, young consumers have to prioritise their leisure spending, and this means that IP merchandise has to compete with other cultural and creative offerings. In order to win over these young consumers, companies and brands will have to build a strong emotional connection between consumers and their favourite IPs. It is also important to keep in mind that the growth of Chinese youth subculture will further diversify the competitive IP market.” Chih-yuan concluded.

*3,000 internet users aged 20-49, February 2019
**Cultural and creative industries include media and entertainment, art, culture, performance, crafts and design.
***Intellectual property, a term widely used in the Chinese cultural, media, and entertainment industry, refers to novels, films, TV series, logo brands, characters and stories.