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Cafes, bookstores in China riding wave of creative boom

China’s cultural and creative industries are entering a positive era, according to a new report by Mintel, Cultural And Creative Products Retailing.

And cafes and bookstores in China are among the primary beneficiaries.

The firm found that with China shifting from a primarily manufacturing economy toward a more service- and creative-centric one, Chinese consumers are paying more attention to cultural and leisure lifestyles.

The research revealed that as many as three in five (60 per cent) of urban Chinese respondents said that they have been visiting more cafes in the past six months, while more than half of respondents have increased visits to libraries (56 per cent) and bookstores (55 per cent). What’s more, two in five (40 per cent) of urban Chinese respondents say they have been visiting more museums and over a-third (36 per cent) say the same of art galleries.

Meanwhile, lower tier cities in China present great potential for cultural and creative industries. Mintel found that 61 per cent of respondents from Tier 2 cities visited libraries more in the past six months as compared to just over half (51 per cent) of respondents in Tier 1 cities. Similar figures held for bookstores and art galleries.

“Chinese consumers, today, are paying more attention to cultural and leisure lifestyles, and therefore, are spending more money on leisure and entertainment,” said Mintel China Reports category research director, retail Chih-yuan Wang. 

“As discussed in our report Mintel Trend ‘Slow it All Down’, as lives become faster and more hectic, there is a wider appreciation for taking one’s time. Cultural and creative products present the opportunity for Chinese consumers to enjoy a degree of slow-paced escapism—also why cafes, libraries and bookstores are now at the centre of cultural and creative leisure lifestyles in China. We are seeing the emergence of new-format bookstores and lifestyle stores featuring comfortable spaces, aligning with consumers’ pursuit of leisure and better living. It’s not just about selling products; it’s also about selling a way of life.”

Research from the flagship report shows that Chinese consumers are actually spending more on leisure and entertainment; total expenditure in the sector reached an estimated RMB2,048 billion (US$289.1 billion) last year, growing 9.7 per cent from 2017. Mintel research also reveals that going to the cinema has become the most popular cultural activity, with three-quarters (74 per cent) of urban Chinese respondents having purchased film tickets within the past six months. This is followed by spending on exhibitions (40 per cent) and concerts, operas, dramas or plays (35 per cent).

“Despite the popularity of video streaming services, our research shows that Chinese consumers love going to the cinema,” said Wang. “Going to the cinema is perceived as a leisure activity rather than a cultural one, showcasing the potential to explore the cultural aspects of cinema and the overall film industry. Transforming cinema from a leisure venue into a cultural venue will open up opportunities for the film- or play-related merchandise market.”

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