Ron van der Ploeg

Chinese New Year spending survey

The China Flowers and Horticulture magazine recently published insights into 2020 consumer habits and trends based on online questionnaires, ‘wholesale flower market safaris’ and a survey of 6,700 Chinese consumers to determine spending patterns and buying willingness during the Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year is only a few days behind us. This year, the lunar holiday fell on 12 February (Friday) and lasted until 26 February. It is about 15 days of celebration and 2021 is the Year of the Ox, which is a good sign for trade according to the Chinese zodiac.

Online market research

This lunar festival ranks among China’s most important floral holidays. To better understand consumer behaviour and trends, China Floriculture Magazine – a publication of the China Flower Association – carried out extensive market research online in December 2019. The different market surveys attempted to understand how buyers choose and use their flowers, where they buy them, and their preferences. And it learnt more about the various decision-making stages Chinese customers go through before making a floral purchase to celebrate the new year.

1.4 million page views and 6,300 people respondents

The magazine also used a different platform to publish a questionnaire on consumers’ purchase intentions regarding to 2020 Chinese New Year flowers. They took to WeChat, Weibo, and Chinese gardening magazines’ social media platforms between December 10-22, 2019. While designing their online survey the marketers posed the usual demographic questions to gain insights into respondents’ age, gender and region followed by questions on the point of purchase, the flower’s purpose (gift or own use), cost, flower preferences and plant care. Altogether, 1,466 respondents answered 15 questions.

The survey’s creators also chose to use Weibo for five random surveys on purchase frequency, chosen varieties and preferred flower colours. This choice of promoting the survey resulted in more than 1.4 million user views and 6,300 replies.

Young and middle-aged women are the primary consumers

In looking at the only survey, the 1,466 respondents’ breakdown was as follows: 35.45 per cent male; 64.55 per cent female; 21.24 per cent aged 25 or younger; 43.44 per cent aged 26 to 40; 28.89 per cent aged 41 to 55; and 6.42 per cent over 55.
This survey found that young and middle-aged women have more spending power than many realise. This demographic includes flower lovers and represents the most significant chunk of New Year flowers shoppers. Figures from the survey respondents show 46.93 per cent say they are very familiar with

Chinese New Year flowers, 45.29 per cent answer that they have a basic understanding of flowers at this time of year. Only 7.79 per cent say they have no clue when it comes to the significant meaning of New Year flowers.

In answering the question about the importance of flowers at this time of year, 44.6 per cent of respondents agree that traditionally, they would go to the flower market to purchase New Year flowers, with 48.09 per cent admitting they do not buy New Year flowers regularly, and only 7.31 per cent make clear it clear they do not buy New Year flowers at all.
The social media survey reveals that among the magazine’s WeChat followers, there is a significant portion of influencers in social media. Social media marketing has helped build the New Year flowers’ ‘brand’ across China. Most people agree that buying New Year flowers is an important consumer habit from this cohort of respondents.

Retail outlet preferences

The survey asks about the retail experience. In answering, 77.78 per cent of respondents say they prefer to do their floral shopping at large flower markets, 35.84 per cent chose corner florists, 18.25 per cent opt for online platforms, and 26.93 per cent purchase their flowers at the Spring Festival flower fairs.
It is no secret that China has rapidly become one of the biggest e-commerce markets globally, but what is surprising is that most floral purchasers prefer to go out to the physical stores to buy New Year flowers. Marketers think that this has to do with checking the quality of potted plants before purchase. And those who buy online mostly buy from Taobao, especially some premier shops such as Tasha’s Garden, Heidi’s Garden, Lily’s Gardening, and Uncle Wang

Passionate for gardening

The survey finds that other respondents’ loyalty preferences are with the official store or APP of Hongyue. A few purchase from Flowerplus Reflower and The Beast, which are e-commerce platforms featuring fresh cut flowers.

When it comes to the purpose of purchasing flowers for the New Year, respondents tell of the importance of creating a special occasion. More than half, 59.65 per cent say their purchase is to create a festive atmosphere; 66.57 per cent have a soft spot for flowers and use them to decorate their home, and 23.05 per cent say that they bring flowers when visiting family or friends during the Spring Festivals.

In conclusion for purpose, the survey reveals that families and individuals have become the primary consumer of New Year flowers. The reasons weigh heavily that the sight and fragrance of flowers can improve people’s mood. This category also does not hesitate to treat themselves to flowers to celebrate Chinese New Year. This trend shows that the purchase of flowers for personal use is slowly but steadily rising in China.

Red is the primary colour

In terms of consumer preference for flower types, colours and willingness to pay, the market analysis found that Phalaenopsis, Cymbidium, Camellia, daffodil and other traditional Chinese New Year flowers such as Forsythia continue to be firm favourites among the respondents.

In a multiple-choice survey, potted Phalaenopsis came out on top with more than half, 54.89 per cent, of the votes. Smaller-sized potted bulbs (narcissus), and potted plants such as cyclamen, zygocactus and miniature roses are trendy, with a selection ratio of 42.31 per cent.

Arty plant mixes are also popular among consumers. Notably, 41.65 per cent of the respondents choose to buy fresh cut flowers during the Chinese New Year. Boldly coloured, hassle-free cut flowers and branches are important staple products. The Chinese New Year shopper increasingly seeks tulip, hippeastrum, calla, European anemone and other bulb flowers, and some beautiful new products such as bougainvillea, ilex verticillata, and medinilla magnifica.

Many consumers indicate they are receptive to ‘exciting new varieties’ and personalised marketing in product choices.

Product specs

Regarding product dimensions, the top vote is for products sized between 20 cm up to 50 cm. The second preference is caught between taller products between 50 cm up to 100 cm and small products below 20 cm in height. Respondents cast few votes on stems taller than one metre. Consumers agree that small and medium-size flowers suitable for family and indoor are the top choices.

Chinese customers also prefer New Year flowers in festive red and purple. Or for those who seek a difference, characteristic and chic-mixed colours, such as fresh and bright orange or pure yellow, and elegant green/ white.

In the survey on Weibo, the question about colours received greater attention. The questions were multiple-choice, and these were the answers:

  • 4.57 per cent chose red
  • Twenty-one per cent opted for mixed colours
  • Nine per cent chose green or white

Price, shape, and maintenance

Price is an important factor for consumers to consider when buying flowers for the Chinese New Year. More than half, 51.81 per cent of respondents, spend within a budget between 100 RMB and 300 RMB; 21.67 per cent spend between 300 RMB and 800 RMB; 17.91 per cent spend less than 100 RMB and 8.62 per cent spend more than 800 RMB. It appears consumers are willing to spend sensibly money on New Year flowers, and the spending per family for mid-price flowers products is gradually growing.

New varieties, flower shape, affordable price, easy maintenance, and shelf life were important to respondents too. Many are attracted to products providing tips for the growers, others respond to new, more unusual flowers and plants. High on the list is quality, affordable price, extraordinary plant shapes, innovative merchandising concepts, attractive packaging including flower food, easy-care flowers, delivery services and maintenance tips.

Respondents from Anhui province, who almost spends between 100-300 RMB on Chinese New Year flowers every year, suggests strengthening the promotion. They say letting more consumers in medium-sized cities know about flower for the Chinese New Year, attracting them with high quality, competitive price and good service and creating their demand and habit of flower consumption for this occasion.

Many respondents say that they would visit flower markets and flower fairs during the Spring Festival period. They feel that attending them with their relatives and friends helps make them more aware of the joy flowers. They agree that these fairs are affordable and convenient outlets to buy festive flowers. Many suggest holding Chinese New Year flower fairs in urban parks and shopping malls and combining them with folk festivals.

Simultaneously, the respondent consumers believe that floral design shows and educational events help make the country’s flower culture even more potent. Their only concern is managing these events: if poorly organised they create too much traffic and too crowded situations.

Retail safari

When releasing the questionnaire, one of the magazine’s reporters embarked on a retail safari and visited several flower markets in Beijing where he saw an abundance of flowers and potted plants for the Chinese New Year. His reports reveal potted phalaenopsis, cymbidium, and rhododendrons traditionally scatter at the more prominent booth positions. Daffodil, cyclamen and miniature roses are also in prime position, waiting for consumers to buy.

He describes small groups of people lingering by the flowers, stopping to ask about the prices. In front of a phalaenopsis booth, two potted phalaenopsis are just sold. Shop owner Ms Lin explains that the plants are farm fresh and come with a stylish and automatic watering pot. The price is between 220 RMB and 500 RMB according to the sizes. She says, “In the run-up to Chinese New Year there is more foot traffic, mainly young people. Plants by 200-300 RMB are bestsellers.”

In a neighbouring stall, an elderly couple pays more than 100 RMB for four small pots of rhododendrons. They say they like the rhododendrons very much and the price was relatively low this year. They bought two more pots for themselves to enjoy the Spring Festival.

In the market, cyclamen, daffodil, and miniature roses sell between 15 to 30 RMB each. Three or four pots are packed in a cane basket with fantastic ornamental effects, attracting many customers.

In addition to the mainstream Chinese New Year flowers, one can also find smaller numbers of much higher priced novelty flowers in the market. Medinilla magnifica or skimmia japonica reevesiana including pots fetch around 1,000 RMB. Smaller one’s price between 300 up to 500 RMB. Amaryllis, callas, curcuma alismatifolia (lotus ginger) and calathea crocata sell for about
300 RMB.

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