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Chinese consumers doth giveth, but they also taketh away



Chinese consumers doth giveth, but they also taketh away


Singles Day has come and gone, with it, billions of yuan in sales (with online payment platform Alibaba recording over $14 billion in a single day).

It’s a testament to the might of Chinese consumers and is a stark demonstration of why so many countries are so eager to tap the Chinese market. But that huge mass of consumers is very much a double-edged sword. When a large mass of buyers suddenly decides it wants a certain product, the “demand” side of the occasion can far outstrip supply, sometimes with disastrous results.

  1. Chinese buyers devastate Australian baby formula stocks

In anticipation of Single’s Day, crafty entrepreneurs (or perhaps you may want to choose a less complimentary term) purchased massive amounts of baby formula in Australian stores.

China has been beset by a raft of food scandals, particularly surrounding baby formula, which in 2008 resulted in tens of thousands of babies being hospitalized with several fatally poisoned. As such, baby formula from foreign brands, untainted by such scandals, has been in demand.

This was no doubt the motivating factor for the people buying up the Australian stock, but rather than wanting it for themselves, which would be forgivable, it would seem they wanted to make a quick buck and unfortunately enraged Australian parents after leaving them without sufficient product—particularly frustrating given that some of the formula brands were designed for babies with special dietary needs and alternatives left them sick.

  1. Chinese buyers push up housing prices all over the place

Well, perhaps they don’t push up prices everywhere, but certainly as a massive chunk of the world’s mega rich and from a culture which prioritizes home ownership as a preferred form of investment, Chinese buyers worldwide have been purchasing luxury apartments. Certain cities have seen house prices skyrocket, due in part to the presence of wealthy Chinese investors. Part of the problem is that the Chinese investors are so cashed up, they’re willing to pay inflated prices, and it doesn’t help that the properties are often hoarded for investment reasons, rather than living or renting.

New York, London, Melbourne, Vancouver…the headlines tell tales of locals both eager to embrace, yet fearful of the influx of Chinese money into the property market (and occasionally more angry than fearful).

  1. Cruise change means Chinese tourists buy everything in Japanese town

When a cruise ship was rerouted to the tiny Japanese town of Hiezu in July, it is perhaps understandable that they bought up everything in the stores. At first the locals were welcoming, arranging for 50 translators to be there for the impending arrival, but things became less friendly when they found themselves short of bare necessities because the 4,000 or so Chinese tourists simply dwarfed the local population of around 3,455. Oops.

Wasn’t the first time Chinese buyers have bought out basic Japanese supplies. In 2007 there was a spike in demand for expensive brands of Japanese rice. These days though, Chinese buyers seem to be more enamored with high tech Japanese toilets.

  1. The dama gold rush

It’s easy to go a little nuts when it comes to gold. That’s why we have the term ‘gold rush’. Chinese dama, (the middle-aged or elderly matriarchs of the family, who often hold the purse strings) have been known to go a bit nuts on purchasing crazes.

In December 2014, that craze was gold. Want China Times described the purchases of gold being made by dama as “frantic”.

There were a whole host of reasons why dama went gaga for gold, but a lot of them boiled down to their applications in jewelry, beliefs that it was a stable alternative to the stockmarket, cultural preferences, and, well, it’s shiny and pretty.

In any case, there were proclamations at the time of China unseating India as the world’s largest gold buyer and a whole lot of excited commentary, though fast forward to July of 2015, and, well, the price of gold slumped to a five year low, as did a lot of dama.

  1. Xi likes a British beer, now loads of Chinese do

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent UK visit garnered a lot of media attention within China, particularly a scene in which he and UK Prime Minister David Cameron downed a brew at the local pub.

What brew, I hear you ask? This was also the question on the minds of a lot of Chinese beer drinkers.

Greene King IPA was the brand of beer, and since then, predictably, orders from China have skyrocketed.

“It has just gone berserk. It’s unbelievable,” the Guardian cited beer importer Peter Bloxham as saying. “We are now completely out of stock in our warehouse in Beijing of everything to do with Greene King,” he said.

  1. Nuke scare prompts Chinese to pass the salt

The other buying rushes listed here at least had some common sense to them—the dama thought gold was stable, not without cause. People wanted to try the beer Xi drank. The cruise ship was stuck at the small town, and so on. But when the Fukushima disaster wracked Japan and fears of nuclear contamination spread all the way to China (it’s worth pointing out here that the radiation was limited to Fukushima and surrounding areas, with some concerns over leakage into the sea which later proved less severe than first thought) consumers reacted somewhat irrationally.

They bought salt. Lots and lots of salt. Didn’t matter that radiation levels hadn’t risen in any Chinese cities, citizens didn’t seem to believe the official pronouncements. It also didn’t matter that iodized salt doesn’t actually do anything to help with radiation, the rumors had begun to spread, and salt was the name of the game.