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Beijing: Profile of a Consumer Market

1.  Economic Overview and Development Planning

Beijing is not only the capital city of China, but also the country’s political, economic and cultural centre. Its economic structure is dominated by the tertiary industry, which accounted for 77.9% of the city’s GDP in 2014, with wholesale/retail and financial services being the biggest sectors. In 2014, Beijing’s GDP stood at Rmb2,133.1 billion, an increase of 7.3% from the previous year, while its per capita GDP topped Rmb99,995. Investment in fixed assets totalled Rmb756.23 billion, of which 26.7% was in infrastructure projects, principally in transportation and public services.

Chart: Beijing’s GDP in recent years
Chart: Beijing’s GDP in recent years

In 2014 there were approximately 153 regional headquarters offices of multinational companies (MNCs), and 503 foreign research and development (R&D) centres in Beijing. Of the 153 MNCs that had established regional headquarters in the capital city, the majority were in the world’s top 500 enterprises, engaged mainly in the electronics, communications and machinery industries. Funds came mainly from the US, EU and Japan.

The finance and insurance sectors are important segments in Beijing’s service industry. The city is home to the headquarters of the People’s Bank of China as well as all leading financial and insurance institutions in the country.

Beijing is rich in tourist resources, with about 200 tourist attractions. The capital city played host to 4.275 million inbound visitors in 2014, generating US$4.61 billion in tourism receipts. During the same year, Beijing received 260 million domestic visitors, generating Rmb399.7 billion in tourism receipts.

On the industrial front, there were 3,641 industrial enterprises above a designated scale in Beijing (based on figures at end of 2013). In the whole year of 2014, its industrial value-added reached Rmb374.7 billion, up 6% over the previous year. Key industries propelling Beijing’s economy included computer, communications and electronic equipment manufacturing, transport equipment manufacturing, power and heat generation and supply, and pharmaceuticals.

Beijing commands the largest pool of technology resources in the country and ranks first in the number of scientific research and higher education institutes. Its technology sector has achievements, knowledge, experience, talent and information which set it appart. In 2014, Beijing’s R&D expenditure amounted to Rmb128.7 billion, about 6.03% of the GDP. In the Zhongguancun Science Park alone, one of China’s premier innovation centres, there were 20,000 enterprises. Among these, 230 were well-known listed companies including Baidu, Lenovo, Sinovel, Lepu Medical Technology and Origin Water. A total of 89 of the world’s top 500 companies have also set up subsidiaries or R&D institutions at Zhongguancun, including Intel, Microsoft and Siemens. Revenues from the science park totalled Rmb3.05 trillion in 2013, with the number of employees reaching 1.899 million.

In recent years, the major objective of Beijing’s economic development is to maintain a relatively fast but steady pace of growth. Its main development strategy is to drive development by innovation. Specific measures include the further building of Zhongguancun into a technological innovation centre with global influence, fostering pillar industries related to new strategic industries, as well as developing the services sector with an aim of raising the quality and benefit of economic development in a move to enhance the branding and influence of “Beijing Services” and “Created in Beijing”.

2.  Beijing’s Consumer Market

2.1  Growth in Retail Sales

Total retail sales of consumer goods in Beijing reached Rmb909.81 billion in 2014, up 8.6% year-on-year. Modern electronic gadgets and home appliances, including computers, air-conditioners and mobile phones, registered high growth rates. Moreover, in 2014, among all wholesale and retail enterprises above a designated scale, the retail sales of cultural goods and office supplies reached Rmb49.86 billion, up 15.3%; communications devices reached Rmb91.66 billion, up 93.8%; traditional Chinese and western medicines reached Rmb78.35 billion, up 10.4%; and home appliances and audio-visual equipment reached Rmb37.13 billion, up 10.2%.

Chart: Retail sales of consumer goods
Chart: Retail sales of consumer goods

In terms of the ownership of major consumer durables, products that posted significant growth from 2004 to 2013 included air-conditioners, computers, mobile phones and cars, with ownership per 100 urban households standing at 180, 110, 225 and 43 respectively.

Table: Average ownership of consumer durables per 100 urban households at year-end
Table: Average ownership of consumer durables per 100 urban households at year-end

2.2  Per Capita Disposable Income and Consumption Expenditure

In 2014, the per capita disposable income of urban households in Beijing amounted to Rmb43,910, up 8.3% over the previous year, or a real growth of 7.2% after adjusting for price inflation. The disposable income of high-income households, which accounted for 20% of all urban households, reached Rmb71,914. During the same year, per capita consumption expenditure was Rmb28,009, a 6.6% rise from the preceding year.

Chart: Per capita disposable income and consumption expenditure of urban households in Beijing
Chart: Per capita disposable income and consumption expenditure of urban households in Beijing

3.  Characteristics of Beijing’s Consumer Market

3.1  Population Structure

Beijing is a city that draws in migrant residents. In 2014, the resident population in Beijing reached 21.52 million, a big jump of 40% from 15.38 million in 2005.

According to China’s sixth population census in 2010, 52% of the population in Beijing were male. The number of people aged 30-49 was the highest, accounting for 35% of the city’s total population. Those aged 0-14 accounted for 9%, 15-29s accounted for 31%, while those aged 50 and above accounted for 26%.

The education level of Beijing’s permanent population is markedly higher than that in other regions. 32% have reached university level, 21% have received senior high school education, 31% have received junior high school education, while 10% have reached primary school level. Compared with the fifth population census, which took place in 2000, the number of people in Beijing reaching college level or above rose from 16,839 to 31,499 per 100,000 people.

There were 6.68 million households in Beijing, with an average size of 2.5 persons. The average household size had decreased by 0.4, from 2.9 persons 10 years earlier.

3.2  Characteristics of Consumers

E-commerce is engine of growth of consumer spending

The commercial sector in Beijing is witnessing changes in consumption trends. As people’s spending is increasingly shifting from product consumption to service consumption and from basic consumption to development-type consumption, the role of cars and houses in propelling consumption growth is weakening. In view of this, efforts will be made by Beijing to encourage different industries to collaborate by way of multiple channels and multiple business formats, promote the development of e-commerce innovation, build platforms linking traditional commercial enterprises, such as department stores and supermarket chains with e-commerce operators, and advance the development of online-to-offline (O2O) operation.

Consumer services “just a click away” - Following the launch of e-commerce websites, such as shop.TooToo.cn, womai.com, woxianchi.com, edaixi.com and emotte.com (95081), and the rise of O2O e-commerce, Beijing citizens can now not only buy vegetables and fruits online, but also order services such as laundry and domestic help. The scope of application in e-commerce continues to extend to daily life services.

Overseas online shopping - As the pace of globalisation accelerates, e-commerce operators are actively promoting “global shopping, overseas direct mailing”, removing geographical barriers for Chinese consumers and giving them the opportunity to buy premium goods from the US, Europe and Japan. Today, more and more Chinese consumers buy luxury goods by visiting the websites of foreign brands and suppliers. On the domestic front, sales of domestic luxury goods are now increasingly shifting from traditional retailers to online channels.

Online sales of agricultural products - Currently, the number of agricultural product e-commerce operators in Beijing has grown to 33. There are also over 100 agricultural product production enterprises, co-operatives and bases which sell agricultural products online. Products on offer mainly include certified organic upmarket fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs, the prices of which are generally more than three times higher than local wholesale prices. The “Internet + agriculture” model is now creating a new trend.

Mobile payment - Mobile payment, also known as mobile phone payment, is a kind of service allowing users to make payment for the products or services purchased by means of their mobile device (usually their mobile phone). Entities and individuals can, by using their mobile device, via the Internet or near-field wireless sensing, send payment instructions directly or indirectly to a banking or financial institution making a monetary payment or fund transfer. Mobile payment involves terminal equipment, the Internet, applications service provider and financial institution, which together provide users with online financial services, such as monetary payment and bill payment.

WeChat marketing - WeChat marketing refers to location-based marketing to mobile device users via their mobile phone or tablet. Business operators can make use of their WeChat public account and WeChat member management system to market their products or services by displaying them on their WeChat Official Website, WeChat Membership, WeChat Push, WeChat Payment and WeChat Activity. This has now become a mainstream O2O WeChat interactive marketing method.

Mid to high-end restaurants target mass market

As the government encourages thrift, the business of mass catering is brisk while medium to high-end restaurants are eagerly switching to the mass market. Against the backdrop of encouraging thrift and opposing extravagance, some catering enterprises are adjusting their business strategy and seeking transformation by developing the market potential of wedding feasts, birthday feasts and family meals and launching dishes and set menus appealing to the mass market. By offering lower prices, upmarket restaurants have attracted more customers, although the average spending per customer is lower.

Middle-class targeted spending

The growth of personal financial service is remarkable, especially innovative mobile personal financial services. Currently, in the asset distribution of Chinese households, the share of real estate is considerably higher than that in Europe and the US, while household debt ratio is far lower than that. This indicates that the prospects for personal financial service are bright. Experiential consumption is budding in China. For instance, tourism (both outbound tourism and inbound tourism), catering and food, movie, TV and entertainment are hot spots for experiential consumption.

4.  Profiles of Beijing’s Major Commercial Districts

Xidan is a well-known traditional municipal-level commercial district in the capital city. Conveniently located, it attracts mainly young consumers. Yansha, situated in the vicinity of the embassy area, is one of the earliest business districts in Beijing to attract foreign investments. Yansha Youyi Shopping City is the landmark of this commercial district, and a large number of hotels and restaurants also cluster here. As the population of the capital city rapidly moves to non-core regions, thanks to convenient transport, new commercial districts in the non-downtown areas of Beijing, such as Tongzhou and Daxing, are taking shape. As the pace of integration of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei picks up, people flow, cargo flow and industries begin to shift, which promotes the development of Beijing’s suburban areas and the emergence of new growth poles, bolstering the healthy development of the entire commercial property market.


A traditional commercial district and the most famous shopping area in Beijing, Wangfujing stretches from Dong Chang’an Avenue in the south to the National Art Museum of China in the north. It runs mainly along a pedestrian walk that is over 100 years old. Wangfujing is positioned as “Beijing’s No.1 Commercial Street” and carries with it a modern and trendy ambience. Offering mainly daily necessities and complemented with an increasing number of dining and entertainment facilities, the district targets Beijing residents, as well as domestic and foreign visitors. This commercial district boasts 12 major shopping centres, including Wangfujing Department Store, Artistic Mansion, Muslim Building, Foreign Languages Bookstore, Xiehe Shopping Mall (協和商場), Beijing APM and six newly-built large shopping, entertainment and commercial complexes, including the extension of the Wangfujing Department Store, Donghua Garment (東華服裝), Minghui Mansion (明輝大廈), Haoyou World Shopping Mall, Danyao Building and Oriental Plaza.


Xidan is located 2 km west of Tiananmen Square and inside Xuanwumen (the north side). With a history of over 50 years of commercial development, a wide array of merchandise on offer and convenient location, Xidan has become a priority choice for Beijing consumers. Positioned as a commercial district for young people and emphasising “trendiness, brand and leisure”, consumers here are mainly Beijing residents aged under 35. Major shopping centres in the district include Xidan Department Store, Xidan Shopping Centre, Xidan Scitech Plaza and Zhongyou Department Store. Other places of interest are Xidan Culture Square, Beijing Books Building, Civil Aviation Building and Capital Times Square.

Picture: Beijing’s Major Commercial Districts
Picture: Beijing’s Major Commercial Districts

Dong’erhuan Chaowai

This district is a fast-developing centre for business travellers. Commercial buildings, including Full Link Plaza, Huapu International Plaza, Xiangye Mansion, Lianhe Building (聯合大廈), Prime Tower, China Life Tower, Kuntai International Center, Chaowai MEN and Baifu International Mansion, help drive the development of the district’s business activities. Adjacent to a great number of embassies, Chaowai commercial district also offers high-end apartments for many senior expatriates and their local business partners, such as high-ranking officials and trade representatives from various countries, senior staff of foreign multinationals and short-staying business travellers.


Located in Haidian district, this commercial district is flanked by well-known education institutions, including Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beihang University and the Beijing Institute of Technology. Many national scientific and research institutes, including the research institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, are also found here. Offering mainly electronic products, Zhongguancun has a cluster of 5,000 small to medium-sized dealers who serve close to 100,000 customers from various parts of the country every day. The Zhongguancun Plaza Shopping Mall covers an area of 200,000 square metres and is divided into five zones: Carrefour’s Asia flagship store, gift items shopping area, high-end cinemas, a pedestrian shopping street, and sports goods brand name stores, providing one-stop shopping and leisure facilities to consumers.


Yansha Youyi Shopping Centre is the landmark building of this commercial district. The district is also home to a large number of entertainment facilities and renowned hotels, such as Kunlun, Great Wall Sheraton and Landmark, which help anchor its position as a foreign visitors’ hub. The Jiuxianqiao area to the east of Yansha commercial district, one of the earliest areas in Beijing attracting foreign investment, has gathered together many internationally renowned corporations.


With shops selling mainly clothing and other daily necessities, Gongzhufen meets the needs of the community in Beijing’s Xicheng district. Here, low- to high-end shopping malls and brand name stores exist alongside a communications market, making up the unique character of this commercial district. Gongzhufen is also known in particular for its sizeable mobile phone market, with several dozen mobile phone specialty stores of all scales. The majority of their customers are government departments and military units. Urban-Rural Trade Centre and Cuiwei Tower are shopping hot spots in Gongzhufen, as well as two of the few largest mid- to high-end shopping malls in Xicheng district.


This district is the most boisterous night life centre in Beijing. Lining its busy street are residential blocks on one side and trendy, avant garde shops on the other. The presence of comprehensive commercial facilities, foreign corporations and a great number of upmarket housing developments has attracted large crowds of white-collar workers with high income and high spending power to gather here. Once a bar street, Sanlitun has gradually evolved into the new commercial district. According to development plan, Sanlitun will be built into an integrated commercial district bringing together shopping, catering, entertainment and leisure facilities.


Spending levels in this district are relatively high. The majority of the residents are young people, including senior corporate executives, white-collar workers, expatriates, overseas returnees and show business people. The district’s four major commercial centres are: Jingkelong Supermarket, Dazhong Electronics, Zhongfu Department Store and Wangjiao Square at the “golden crossroads”; Wangjing International Commercial Center situated at the south end of Wangjing Street; Northeast 4th Ring commercial area with IKEA and Carrefour as its core; and Hualian Commercial Building located at the junction of Guangshun North Street and Guangshun South Street as well as Wal-Mart.


Development of this district began in the early 1990s. Within an area of 1.3 square kilometres along Chongwenmenwai Avenue, projects including the New World Centre have been launched. The New World Shopping Centre, New World Courtyard Hotel and New World Downtown Bravo Apartments formed the pivot for further growth in the area. Establishments including Soshow shopping mall, together with New World Department Store, Party World KTV, Yuesheng Party Life KTV, Hancheng (Korea city) shopping centre, as well as MacDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, have turned Chongwenmen into a trendsetting district appealing to young consumers.


One of the most vibrant financial hubs in Beijing, this commercial district is situated at the intersection of subway lines 1 and 10, covering the northern part of Jianguomenwai Avenue, eastern part of Dongdaqiao Road, western part of Xidawang Road and southern part of Chaoyang Road. The celebrated CCTV Headquarters and China World Trade Centre Tower 3, the tallest building in Beijing, are located here. The CBD is the capital city’s most well-known international business centre and prime office space market, where property value is extremely high. Major shopping malls here include China World Mall, Shin Kong Place and the Place, making the district a leader in high-end department stores in Beijing.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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