Chinese Gen Z prefers domestic products to foreign ones

By Huang Lanlan Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/22 18:13:40

Sticking with home brands

After getting disappointed with several of her expensive foreign-brand lipsticks, 23-year-old Wang Wei turned to much cheaper domestic ones that cost around 30 yuan ($4.37) each, almost one tenth of the prices of those from Dior, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent (YSL).

The quality of some renowned foreign products is actually not as good as they claim, Wang said, citing a popular US branded lipstick she once used. "It made my lips so dry and uncomfortable that I had to frequently use lip balm," she told the Global Times.

By contrast, domestic lipsticks are cheaper and better than foreign ones, Wang said.

Photo: VCG

Market bull's-eye

Unlike the older generation's affinity for big foreign brands, the Chinese Generation Z prefer domestic products, said a report based on a recent survey of more than 2,000 primary and secondary school students in Shanghai, according to a report by Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News. 

Instead of blindly trusting imported goods, Gen Z believes that domestic stuff is great, the report said.

Wang had been using renowned Western-branded cosmetics until she bought a few domestic lipsticks after watching a livestreaming promotion show in November on Alibaba's e-commerce platform Taobao.

After receiving the lipsticks, Wang found they had nice colors that quite fit the colors of Chinese women's skin and lips. "Their colors grasped my heart," she said.

Many domestic cosmetics and skincare products are developed specially for Chinese customers, making them more suitable for Asians than their Western competitors, senior college student Zhou Yingxi told the Global Times.

"I find domestic eyebrow pencils, for instance, are designed to fit Chinese people's curved eyebrows and black hair, making their makeup look natural," she added.

Calling herself a big fan of Chinese brands, Zhou said more than 90 percent of her possessions, from cosmetics to electronics, are domestic products.

Zhou has never bought clothes of popular Western high street brands. "Their clothes are ugly," she said.

Overseas fast fashion brands are falling out of favor among young Chinese. Forever 21 announced its exit from the mainland market in 2019, after Topshop and New Look had closed all of their stores in the Chinese mainland.

Their failure proved their lack of knowledge of fashion preferences and consumption habits of Chinese clients, observers said.

Cultural elements

Zhou herself prefers well-designed and creative products with traditional Chinese elements.

She mentioned the Palace Museum souvenirs that have become very popular among young Chinese. According to Shan Jixiang, former curator of the Palace Museum, the revenue of the museum's cultural and creative sales reached 1.5 billion yuan in 2017.

The museum-themed cosmetics the Palace Museum sold in December 2018, including lipstick, eye shadow, blushers and highlighters, were sold out on its Taobao shop within just four days. 

More than 90,000 lipsticks were sold during that period, the Beijing News reported in February 2019.

"The colors of the Palace Museum lipsticks were inspired by the colors of ancient architectures in the Forbidden City - such as the red palace walls - making the lipsticks quite traditional," Zhou said. "They fitted the taste of traditional culture enthusiasts including me."

Gen Z's growing recognition and love of traditional Chinese culture contributes to the development of China's cultural and creative industry, said Cheng Huiqin, associate professor of culture industry management at Fujian Jiangxia University.

Cheng ascribed the success of the Palace Museum products largely to the traditional cultural elements they contain. 

"The Forbidden City made full use of its architectures and antiquities and creatively integrated these elements into the designs of its products, such as bookmarks," she told the Global Times.

The Palace Museum has released bookmarks of various appearances and shapes. One of its top sellers, a 35-yuan flower-shaped metal bookmark, has been sold nearly 12,000 times on the museum's Taobao shop.

Loyal customers

Patriotism also leads young Chinese to choose domestic products, some Gen Zs told the Global Times.

Zhou said she gave up on iPhones when she found out that Huawei cellphones are banned in the US. 

"If someone recommended me an iPhone, I would decline him or her by taking my Huawei phone out of my pocket and saying, 'mine is better and cheaper.'"

Wang agreed. "I don't buy foreign brands that have insulted China," she said, citing the Italian fashion brand Dolce and Gabbana (D&G) which published an offensive video against Chinese in November 2018.

D&G faced a large-scale backlash from Chinese e-commerce platforms and consumers after the controversial video went viral online.

"With so many choices at hand, I will never buy a brand that is unfriendly to China," Wang told the Global Times.

However, some young people turn to domestic brands only because they have better value for money.

Porcelain designer and dealer Li Ping said he seldom takes political or other elements into account when buying a product. "I only care about its price and quality," he added.

In 2017, Li began to use a Smartisan smartphone, which cost around 2,000 yuan, much cheaper than his previous iPhone that cost over 5,000 yuan.

Li praised the battery of this Chinese branded cellphone. "I just needed to charge it once a day," he recalled. "While using my iPhone 6S I had to get it charged twice or three times."

Since then, Li only chose domestic smartphones. His current one - a 899-yuan Xiaomi mobile phone - was the cheapest of all the smartphones he had bought over the years. 

"But its quality is not bad," he said. "Its functions are as user-friendly as iPhone."

Li is optimistic about the future of China's smartphone industry. 

"Chinese smartphones have made great progress over the past decade especially in R&D and innovation," he told the Global Times. 

"No wonder they are gaining more and more customers from home and abroad with their competitive price and quality."

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