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A Change of Pace in Chinese Consumer Sentiment

In This Article
  • Chinese consumers are spending less and saving more—with the chief goals of supporting elders and children—but this is a short-term dip within a population that remains upbeat about the future.

  • Shoppers are becoming more sophisticated—valuing quality, brand names, and health-related purchases.

  • The impact of the economic downturn is now hitting smaller cities harder than larger ones, but these lower-tier cities remain the greatest source of future population and consumption growth.

  • Younger middle-class and affluent consumers in small cities have not felt the downturn at all, and their intention to spend more in the future has strengthened.

Just as China leads the world in economic growth, consumer optimism in China is stronger than in the rest of the world. Our latest consumer-sentiment survey, conducted by BCG’s Center for Consumer and Customer Insight, found that the percentage of Chinese consumers who intend to spend more in the coming year is three times higher than it is in the U.S., Japan, and the major European markets.

However, with the recent slowdown in China’s previously hyper-fast economic growth, Chinese consumers have become more cautious. (See Exhibit 1.) While 27 percent of Chinese consumers plan to spend more in 2013, that is an 11 percent drop from last year’s 38 percent.


After nearly ten consecutive quarters of declining GDP growth since historical highs in 2010, China’s growth has waned from the double digits to, most recently, less than 8 percent. As a result, Chinese consumers no longer retain the same optimism of years past. Last year, close to half of consumers said that the economy would improve within the next 12 months; this year, the percentage dropped to 38 percent.

The latest BCG Global Consumer Sentiment survey was fielded in 16 countries in April 2012 and included more than 20,000 consumers. The China consumer-sentiment data were refreshed in April 2013 with 1,000 consumers in 12 cities.