WPBeijing was a marketing studio founded by Peter Bic and Everlyne Yu in Beijing, October 2003. In 2017 it became known as Bicyu NZ Co Ltd. Aim2D is an umbrella media arm of Bicyu. This article is part of a Weekend Series where we dare to share some of our experiences and insights. So, make yourself a pot of Oolong tea, grab a chocolate bar and settle down for a longer read.
China’s second hand market – a little history.
Over the past 6 or so weeks we have seen mention of a second hand market rapidly emerging in China. Let’s take a look at that.
First, its important to remember than nothing, not even change in China, happens in isolation, nor overnight. Pretty darn quick in most cases, but rarely overnight! [sort of reminds me of Rachel Hunters schpeal for a certain hair care product many years ago!]
Some of the commentators I have read are linking this to the Covid virus, inferring that being locked up for xx weeks has made Chinese value what is important.
The first point here is that contrary to what US based media reported, China did not lock down perse. Yep Wuhan surely did, as did the province Hubei. But like us, here in Beijing, many Chinese, apart from having an extra 10 days added to their holiday, were pretty much free to wander. Not everywhere was shut, public transport still functioned.
Accounts from friends and relatives suggest that NZ, EU was closed tighter than China- overall. So I think the image of millions of Chinese, shut up in a small room, contemplating their navel, revaluing their priorities and the meaning of life, whilst romantic and poetic even, is a little too fanciful.
Main problem here is timing.
If you have read even just a few of our pages, you will have seen we refer to LUXURY and FASHION as signposts for business, marketing, tech and social media trends in China.
We have stated- ad nausea- that wherever Lux and Fashion goeth, mainstream surely followeth.
Well, surely is a bit of an over reach maybe. But the chances of it not are reasonably small. Therefore, even if your product is simple wooden clothes pegs, it is worth keeping an eye on Lux trends. Just in case. To put it into military parlance:
“ forewarned is forearmed: less likely to be taken by surprise.”
Or something like that.
So, what we are saying is the second hand market in China began with luxury. And is still largely dominated by it.
To a great extend it is difficult to say precisely when.
Some researchers put is as far back as 2016 when showing off wealth and ostentation became vulgar and distasteful among China’s established, wealthy. Yet not quite for the burgeoning middle class and nouveau riche. For those looking to fast track, a second hand whatever was a logical path.
However, in the beginning, there were more buyers than sellers. Current owners saw nothing wrong with wearing a skirt once and then leaving it hanging in the back of the wardrobe.
Other writers point to the tightening economy of 2018 as a driving factor when cleaning out the wardrobe could realise a reasonable amount of cash. By this time JD.com had established a second hand section in the electrical, computer and mobile phone sections. This is feasible; it ties with Japan’s trend in the 1990s.
The are several speciality second hand luxury online platforms in China. However, currently a large part of this industry is conducted through Brick and Mortar stores. Middle men / women. Original buyers sell to the store, news owners buy.
The reason of course is simple. Buying from an experienced middle person with a sharp eye substantially reduces the risk of spending big money to buy a fake on line.
Today, as many point out, the second hand market, especially Lux and Fashion is, in China, hot and getting hotter. Many experts point to the same phenomenon in Japan, middle 1990’s where a circular system developed. New buyers continued to buy new, but sold more readily. In China we can expect to see more people selling, more buying.
At the end of the day it is all about marketing
There is also a quiet revolution of sorts, happening at retail level in China. We do not speak of second hand, used or even pre loved luxury or goods in China. The new term is now Vintage.
To that end, vintage stores have sprung up.
Quietly elegant and opulent, but with an air of sophistication and helpful, discreet salespeople to calm and of course, flatter perspective clients. After all this is still a relatively new experience for some and it has probably taken them several weeks of slowly walking past the store before they dare to enter.
Hoping friends don’t see.
Let’s not forget, this is culture where not too long ago, wearing something used conjured up memories of the old China.
Poor China. Where people struggled for survival and hand-me-downs was a way of life. But again, this is slowly changing as the stigma of second hand is eroded and value of proudly owning something Vintage strengthens.
If we think about the previous passage for a moment, we can see that this is not universal. It isn’t a carte blanche to take this new desire for vintage clothing or second hand goods and , as some writers are suggesting, paint it over every Chinese. It just isn’t that simple. Nothing in China ever is. Truly.
Like many countries today, China has a burgeoning older generation and a not so large younger gen. For the older gen, the memory of old China is very real- within their life time. It would be hard for them to buy something that wasn’t new. Even relatively younger women in the mid 40’s balk at this idea. For them the emphasis is on ownership, being new, being seen and “face” that comes from that.
Currently, the vintage market is, generally, driven by the younger generation, those for whom the “experience” is greater than possession and the also growing, environmentally aware sector. Who also tend to be younger.
But even that is a huge generalisation. Apart from the fact that Chinese society is changing, peoples attitudes are changing there is still a massive discrepancy between thinking and values in different regions.
It may, for example, be relatively safe and accurate to state that younger shoppers are the biggest drivers of vintage in Beijing or Shanghai. It might however, be erroneous to suggest that older women there do not. It might be an equally dangerous conclusion to believe young people in Wuhan, Chongqing or Jilin are more inclined to buy vintage.
In conclusion, the point to this rather long article is much the same as others we have created. One size does not fit all in China. It is not a huge market of 1.4 billion. Rather a huge number of smaller markets and niche sectors.
So please, next time you read an article re China, don’t realign or create your marketing plan. Take some time, read around and dig a little deeper. Nothing in China is as simple as it first looks.
Thanks for reading our China news, marketing, tech and social media article – we hope it was useful, relative, informative, valuable.
Then perhaps you may like to chat directly and personally with Everlyne?
But please, be aware of local (China) time when calling from overseas. Despite rumours to the contrary, Everlyne is human, not a bot, she do does eat, drink and sleep – sometimes.
Whatever your question re Chinese Business, Marketing Tech or Social Media, she will know the answer, or know someone who does! A brief intro below;
In 2003 Everlyne Yu co-founded WPBeijing Marketing Studio with Englishman Peter Bic, now known as Bic Brands.
She began Uengager, a company focused on customer engagement, as a SaaS MarTech company in 2017.
Hello, Nihao, I’m Everlyne
I love to talk about and help people understand the amazing ways MarTech and SaaS can work to strengthen your business engagement with Chinese consumers.
I know you have questions or want to talk about your brand or business in China so please, drop me a line opposite. If you prefer live chat, call and talk to me live, in person direct.
Everlyne is also a key note speaker, lecturer and KOL on MarTech in China. She is CEO of Uengager, business development officer for Bicyu.
Everlyne hs been privileged to work with a variety of international organisations, from VW, Cushman Wakefield, Sodexo, Bristol Myers Squibb to local Chinese firms such as Midea, and OK Order.
If you’re looking for guidance, tips, advice on any aspect of starting or growing a business in China or training, coaching your existing China marketing team for excellence, be sure to check out Uengager. Home page and base for Everlyne Yu. Read her short bio – opposite left – or contact her direct – below – for a free, heart to heart chat.