The Franchise Centre

The rise of ‘retailtainment’ in China - having fun is a growing business

By Kerry Miles

The rise of ‘retailtainment’ in China - having fun is a growing business

China’s rapidly growing and increasingly affluent middle class is driving a powerful retail trend away from mass consumer products to more premium brands and demand for entertainment and social experiences.

Our recent franchise delegation to China included a special retail presentation by global real estate firm CBRE on the dominant consumer dynamics in the Chinese retail market. The CBRE ‘China Retail Market - Key Challenges & Opportunities’ report highlights the growing appetite for what it terms ‘retailtainment’.

“Having fun is a growing business in China,” the report concludes, referring to strong demand for retail-based entertainment and social experiences particularly from the key China growth demographics of middle class and Millennial consumers.

Such experiences encompass everything from cinema, home entertainment, music and gaming to theme parks and themed shopping malls and children and family entertainment.

There is also a growing focus on health and wellness and sports among modern Chinese consumers, who are ‘trading up’ from mass consumerism to unique retail experiences.

Underpinning this demand is the increasing number of high income earning, upper middle class consumers in China’s high-growth Tier 1 cities and its series of emerging inland cities.

The rising number of high income earners with greater levels of disposable retail income is led by cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Chongqing.

These consumers are craving more premium international retail brands, particularly in the luxury and aspirational fashion and technology categories.

International retailers are responding to this demand, with the CBRE report showing that China now has two cities in the Top 10 global retail destinations, Shanghai at No. 5 and Beijing at No. 8, in terms of international retailer representation.

In addition to this, the growing desire for ‘retailtainment’ experiences is resulting in more innovative and engaging retail offerings in China, including themed malls, concept stores, pop-up stores, children, family and sports entertainment, and gaming and culture attractions.

According to CBRE, this demand is fuelling the emergence of ‘placemaking’ in Chinese retailing. It says this trend is transforming retailing in China from just shopping to a destination experience, citing examples such as retail malls now adding crowd-drawing art installations and fun children and family entertainment zones to its overall consumer offering.

It appears the rapidly evolving retail growth market of China is on its way to joining the global movement away from traditional mass consumerism, which is increasingly being serviced via internet shopping, to innovative new experience-based retailing that is all about having fun and social interactions and connections.

This will present many opportunities for retailers that can stay ahead of the game and service the enormous demand for fun that will flow from China’s booming middle class. 

See the CBRE presentation here »


Joint liability starts this Friday – here are some actions you can take Kerry Miles is the General and Business Manager for the Franchise Centre at Griffith University and has over 15 years of experience in the franchise sector. She is responsible for developing franchise educational products and events and is the editor of the Centre's enewsletter.

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