Ralf HallerRalf Haller April 5, 2009

Will China take on the consumer role of the US?

This week while on a business trip to China I had some time for shopping on Saturday in Shanghai’s Huaihai Road. It is one of the major places to go to for the Chinese who are looking for brands and good quality. Prices here are about 1/4 to 1/2 of what you would have to pay in Europe I think, whereas high-end brands are actually even more expensive. Laptop computers, for example, are about the same price or slightly more expensive compared to what they would cost from an online store in the US.

The department stores were packed and, in contrast to 12 years ago when I first walked along this road, people are actually buying and not just looking. Discounts were offered everywhere and this is done slightly differently here. It goes like this: on every purchase exceeding e.g. 200 Yuan you get a 100 Yuan discount. I was told that not long ago one department store here had offered a 50% discount, leading to such strong demand that the crowd had burst through the shop window and the police had needed to come to the rescue.

Seeing this action here, I think there is a good chance that China is on its way to replacing the US as the world’s number one consumer country. No idea if this is also the official government strategy, but whether planned or not it seems to be happening. That’s at least my take from this Saturday afternoon’s stroll along Huaihai Road. BTW, I also had a visit to a movie theater to see the great movie Slumdog Millionaire. The Chinese asked me if it still looks like that in India today; sadly, it is the case. Even worse, this happens in a country proud of their computer science people and spending money on flying to the outer space, but not taking care of millions of people living on garbage hills. In comparison, China shows much more responsibility and humanity I think than India, which is sad, and one of the reasons I have not yet been attracted to visit India.