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China's consumer markets

A closing window of opportunity


If you sell to consumers, you understand the problem. While those catering to the wealthiest silver of transnational consumers have continued to prosper to varying extents, most consumer markets around the world have remained in the doldrums since the onset of the global financial crisis.

That is, except for those in China.

In fact, in many cases, Chinese shoppers traveling overseas have provided a needed boost to those same high-end retailers in the rest of the world who have fared better than most. Meanwhile, those Chinese who cannot travel abroad easily have been stepping up their purchases at home, causing a rapid expansion of retailers targeting China's growing middle class.

Rising affluence and greater sophistication among the Chinese public are factors in this transformation. Although they have not yet developed lifelong attachments to brands, many Chinese are increasingly brand-aware. Many of the world's top brands have a presence and high visibility in cities like Shanghai, but not yet in most other Chinese cities; so there are still opportunities for new brands to enter.

The message is clear: if yours is a consumer business, you have few places to grow. Your growth market could be in China. However, to profit from the tail-end of the double-digit growth curve, companies with the ambition to enter China should do so now. Within five to ten years, the current rate of growth will have subsided, compounding the difficulty of market entry.

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