There’s a small but growing movement against heavy spending in the world’s largest fashion market as more young people feel disillusioned with materialism.
“Are people slowly waking up from the slumber of consumerism?” a user on Zhihu recently asked his peers. While it’s true that most people visiting the popular Chinese question and answer site seek fashion advice on things like must-have lipsticks or sneakers for specific body types, others come to mull over hyper-consumerism, workism and the lack of social mobility facing young professionals in the face of China’s rapid economic growth.
In time, the aggressive approach of online shopping festivals and the toll borne by delivery workers may have a wearing effect on some people, says Amrita Banta, managing director and co-founder of Agility Research. But it’s unlikely that consumer fatigue and wider discontent will have a sizeable financial impact on hegemons like Alibaba and Pinduoduo.
Values are changing, nonetheless. “Consumers still want to buy, but they want to buy differently,” said Banta, referring to the pandemic’s acceleration of various strands of conscious consumption.
According to Banta, some consumers who can afford premium and high-end goods are now buying fewer things, but spending their money on more expensive, investment-worthy products. To be sure, multiple posts on Chinese social media about spending less are looking to save money by making more of it, or gaoqian.
Cover photo: Employees pack boxes in a Cainiao warehouse in Wuxi, China’s eastern Jiangsu province, ahead of Singles’ Day 2020. Getty Images.
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