Christmas special II: what does Christmas (pet) market🎄tell you about China? | Following the yuan
Understand how China consumer market works via these 3 trends that dominate Shanghai this Christmas (2/3)
Christmas in Shanghai is a unique charm. Wait, I already said this yesterday. It’s true though. Christmas markets are all the rage, and I’m already seeing eight and counting. But how did the Christmas pet market get here and what is it, exactly?
Let’s first take a look at the economy of markets this year. The scope of lifestyle events in China, including weekend markets and lifestyle festivals, has seen remarkable growth and spread beyond the confines of first-tier cities, particularly since the lifting of China's zero-Covid policy. (I cannot find specific data on the economy of it, sadly.)
In Shanghai, instead of the one dominating market on the Bund, a multitude of local players, from event planners like Common Rare to various realtors citywide, are introducing their own market experiences. The organizers typically charge ~1,500 yuan from creators/small brands for a booth, or work with them on commission basis; they charge attendees 40~80 yuan per person.
While it’s quite common to see realtors do that to seek additional revenue, I think it’s a stroke of genius for the pet trade show organizer TOPS to also participate this trend. China’s pet market will exceed 500 billion yuan in 2025, according to market research firm iiMedia. And TOPS carves out this new platform, the Christmas pet market, for their clients to directly engage with end-users during the festive season.
My previous coverage touched on the crisis faced by dog owners in China and the enduring sense of apprehension that remains among many (myself included). However, the heart of Shanghai, particularly the area C·PARK Haisu that is collaborating with TOPS, seems like a bubble where people feel a sense of security and ease.
At the market, another rising trend I’m seeing is pet-related goods for humans, a topic I'll explore in more detail shortly.
What does it say about China?
This isn’t China-specific, but again, I think this happens faster in China.
Supposedly, Christmas pet market is capitalizing on the Christmas market trend, while some of the vendors, who are in non-related businesses beforehand, are also entering the booming pet sector after becoming pet owners themselves. When you look at the sectors, it’s like they are tapping into the niche of a niche, which is still promising on the basis of China’s demographic.
He Yu, a porcelain painter based in Jingdezhen, came to Shanghai specifically for the market. As an animal lover and pet owner, she started specializing in customized porcelain painting and sculpture since 2018. She charges 1,000 to 3,000 yuan (US$139.4~418.2) for a 25cm porcelain plate painting.
I also met the founder of pet goods brand Needoog Liz Lv. As a former product operator at an internet comapny for seven years, Lv's journey is emblematic of many women in China's tech industry. "Last year, I got married and became pregnant. At 35, facing the age ceiling in tech firms and considering the broader economic climate of widespread post-Covid layoffs, it didn't seem feasible to continue working for someone else," she said.
The name Needoog came about because Lv feels like “Dogs are as crucial to our lives as oxygen, and their need for us is just as strong." Launched only in August, Needoog quickly made an impressive entry into the market, debuting on the social e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu. The brand offers an array of products that appeal to the pet-loving community, ranging from unique social tags such as “please touch me” and “I’m shy,” to thoughtfully designed door slogans for delivery personnel, warning them there are canines in the house.
Where is it going?
To a certain degree, the pet-related goods for humans are more interesting to watch because humans can buy endless products for themselves — alongside He and Lv’s booths are pet daycare, pet taro reading, pet Christmas booth, etc — they essentially serve the emotional needs of humans.
From the prospective of market prospects, the rise of auxiliary products and services also demonstrate confidence in the pet sector.
As a sample of one, I know that my dog doesn’t need to try that many new pet food brands and snacks, and he’s healthiest when sticking to the current diet. Yet, I bought a 99-yuan lucky bag for him anyway, which includes ~10 samples and goodies for dogs including pills for senior dogs’ joint health, which he doesn’t need yet.
He, the porcelain painter, appears to be more certain about her target audience after the experience. She said the the business there is not even comparable to her regular business in Jingdezhen, a porcelain central, because of her relatively high price point. “My current clientele are those who appreciate fine china and are also pet owners,” she said.
Today, with increasing pressure, pets have increasingly become the sustenance of every adult in China, Lv said.
“The domestic pet industry will get even better. Likewise, the cultural and creative industry is becoming more and more popular,” she added. “I believe that both industries have great prospects in the future.” 🔚
P.S. I'll be taking a brief hiatus next week as I'll be traveling to Thailand again. Stay tuned for more consumer news when I return!
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