Chinese women & underwear
Chinese women have the same motivations as western consumers regarding the purchases of underwear: to be sexy and glamorous, to add some value to their bodies and to keep things fresh with their men.
As far as the buying behavior is concerned, there are some big differences in Chinese culture compared to the other western cultures. Originally underwear is seen as a useful necessity, not a fashion statement. Now, luxury brands from France, Italy, Hong Kong are trying to get more information about the Chinese lingerie market and promoting a sexy and fashionable image that has been so successful with companies like Victoria’s Secret. With a stronger western influence in Chin, Chinese girls are starting to develop a taste similar to the western world. Women in China are starting to open up and they want to express themselves and lingerie is a new sexy way of expression.
Chinese women spend 10% of their clothing expenditures on underwear. Bottom line, the market is growing and the potential is endless.
Characteristics of the underwear market
The brands have to adapt themselves to the Chinese market because the habits change from one country to another this applies to China more than any other countries.
Chinese consumers are a lot more modest and conservative compared to French women who find transparent lingerie and sleepwear sexy and fashionable. So style needs to be fashionable but more conservative even though lingerie is sexy by nature.
Attractive underwear color
Be careful with the colors: by launching a brand, we have to stay concentrated in Chinese habits and expectations. People are superstitious in China especially about the colors, for example, they don’t want to buy a white car because it is the death color. In underwear, they use a wide range of pink colors. Yellow is considered as a pornographic color in China.
Chinese women have a smaller slinkier built compared to European women, yet they desire the fuller western chest size. So in order to adapt to the market in China one needs to keep in mind their body shape and the desired look they prefer.
How a Chinese lady chose her underwear ?
The first drawing (on left) presents the motivation in the purchases of underwear in China. Why Chinese consumers chose this piece of underwear?
1) Influenced by a communication campaign and advertising
2) Quality of the product
3) Price of the product
Prices are according to the range but generally speaking it is from 50 to 300 yuan.
The market shares between the brands are approximately the same between 5 and 10%, there is no big leader in the field. Foreign brands represent 60% of the underwear market.
The number of men who order lingerie for their women on the internet is a much larger number than most would expect. They enjoy purchasing sexy items for their loved ones but do not enjoy the experience of going to the store to rumble through piles of intimates, so online stores gives them complete privacy.
73,5% of online buyers are between 20 and 39 years old.
Distribution of brands
The luxury brands are in first tier cities. So there are a lot of target consumers around Shanghai and Beijing in the East or Hong Kong in the south.
A – Beijing: high class
B – Shan Dong: middle class
C – Jiang Su: traditional middle and low brand, warm-keeping
D – Shanghai: high class, warm-keeping
E – Yi Wu: seamless underwear
F – Wen Zhou: warm keeping
G – Fu Jian: middle and low brand
H – high class and for exportation brand
I – Hai Nan middle-high class second-line brand
Underwear buyers profile
The main buyers are women between 24 and 35 years old, they represent 78,94% of the users compared to the men.
Most girls in China run in between a size A or B cup.
The Chinese women care most about fashion style, Comfort, and personalization needs.
Underwear market continues to grow
The market increases each year by 20% since 2009, a big opportunity for foreign brands to respond to the needs of Chinese people.
Foreign brands of underwear in China
What about the well known luxury and French brands: Aubade, Barbara, Lou, Princesse Tam Tam, Chantal Thomass, Etam… Who is implanted in China? Who is trying?
When we are looking for information on Weibo website, we can notice that people use to talk about foreign brands, give some news, introduce the new advertising, especially with the Aubade lessons… Most of them, when we are looking for “fashion underwears” share the French touch in underwear with photos.
Zoom on brands implantation
Etam arrived in China in 1994 through an association with a Chinese family, a good way to come into the Chinese market. Now, the group ETAM offers 3000 shops in China and three brands Etam Lingerie, Etam Sport and Etam Week-end. The shops are more luxurious than in France with store spaces exceeding 500 square-meters in luxury mall. They made sure to present ETAM as a with a luxurious French image, even more so than in their own mother country in order to upmarket themselves in China.
Etam has a good implantation in China with its shops but also because the brand has an online website that Chinese people enjoy visiting.
To truly preserve the foreign image Etam doesn’t have a translated Chinese name unlike other foreign brands with a strong presence in China.
Implicite stores are located in the four most metropolitan cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hong Kong. There, people have a higher salary and more buying power. So we have two different marketing strategy: on one side like ETAM, a mid-range brand with stores all across China. On another side, luxury brands only located in large metropolitan cities..
Triumph or « 黛安芬 » (« dai an fen ») which means the same thing in Chinese and English. Triumph have shops in luxury malls, with a selective range of products.
A lot of people make the mistake that Triumph is a Chinese brand due to their long presence in China.
Aubade is one of the best foreign brands for Chinese people because it represents the French luxury underwear with design, quality, and glamour. And when we surf on Weibo, there are endless posts about Aubade products exceeding other brands. Maybe they also appreciate the atypical advertising.
The foreign brands have a lot of questions about launching their brands on the Chinese market: “do we have to translate the name to Chinese ? in characters? Have the both? » but it is important to know that it is difficult to translate a message in characters because all characters already have their meaning.
Moreover, they have to adapt the size and style to the Chinese consumers so it increases the costs.
But its success has interested many brands in the industry. When will Aubade translate its lessons in Chinese?
Underwear is intimate. The brands come to China to meet the consumers and clients in exhibitions or shows. For Chinese people, it is very important to touch the product before buying and try it so it is better if the brands act inside the market.
The last exhibition organized by Promincor group welcomed big name brands from France in Shanghai. It was from the 25th of October to the 26th of November. The goal of the event was to promote French quality and spirit of the creations with brands like Chantelle, Princesse Tam Tam and so on.
You can find exhibitions in metropolitan cities like HK, Sh and Beijing. They are the luxury cities in China like New York or L.A of the east.
The website www.lingerie-mode.com, (French name but Chinese website) is an online magazine which introduces all trends in underwear everything from brands, style and new updates
内衣Mode ( = underwear fashion)
Online French magazines translated into Chinese: Vogue, Marie Claire …
Direct distribution: Strategy of Etam or Triumph to open some shops.
Indirect distribution: online shopping, local partners, partnerships, international distributors
The brands which are not sure about the Chinese market could begin with an intermediate like an agent or international distributor to experience the market, get some information and find some channels to sell the products…
« 华歌尔 » Wacoal
« Suzle » – Nightdresses, night underwear and classical underwears.
« 爱慕 » Aimer: http://www.aimer.com.cn/
The brand looks like Etam because they sell the same products (underwear and ready to wear) with the same range of prices.
« 曼妮芬 » Maniform: http://www.maniform.com.cn/
The group maniform includes :
– Coyeee: simple range, fashion, quality
– Enweis: international, lifestyle
– Lingerie: young target
«古今 » Gujin: http://www.sh-gujin.com/
We could find it in the big malls in China next to Zara etc…
«桑扶兰 » Sunflora: http://www.sunflora.com.cn
Sunflora group includes three brands: Sunflora, Eversweet, Magic feeling. The brand is especially in the east of China.
The Chinese brands have different tastes about the colors, the padding and overall style compared to western countries. In China, you will find many bright colors like purple and pink while in Europe women prefer wearing sexy colors like black and white.
Chinese women look for padding in bra while western women look for lace details.
As far as the communication is concerned, one common point between western and eastern brands: the model come from western countries, with curvier bust and waistlines. By choosing a western model, it gives a western touch to the product to convey a sense of luxury Chinese people often associate western products to. And even Chinese brands use the western image to make people believe that it is a foreign brand.
Bottom line is the Chinese consumers are ready to shell out money to get lingerie with a fashionable design and quality. But in a relatively new market, the consumers are looking for a direction. So it is the perfect time for lingerie brands now to make their mark in the Chinese lingerie market. With the right marketing strategy, maybe you can be the next big brand in China.
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