About HKTDC | Media Room | Contact HKTDC | Wish List Wish List () | My HKTDC |
繁體 简体
Save As PDF Print this page

Ningbo: Profile of a Consumer Market

1.  Economic Overview and Development Planning

Ningbo is one of the first Chinese coastal cities opened to the outside world. It is also a sub-provincial level city with independent planning status. As an important economic hub and a base for heavy and chemical industries situated in the southern part of the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region, it is a key industrial city in East China.

In 2014, Ningbo’s GDP was Rmb760.3 billion, growing by 7.6% from the previous year. Added-value of tertiary industries grew 7.6% to Rmb339.18 billion, constituting a 44.6% share of the city’s GDP, a rise of 4.8 percentage points from the 39.8% share in 2005. Calculated in terms of permanent population, the city’s per capita GDP was Rmb98,972.

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

The private sector and foreign capital are the main features of Ningbo’s economy. As at the end of 2014, there were 203,627 private enterprises in Ningbo. Exports account for 53% of the city’s GDP, with about a third of the exports coming from foreign-invested enterprises. Ningbo is the largest export city in Zhejiang province. Its exports accounted for 27% of the provincial total in 2014.

According to Ningbo Overall Urban Planning (2006-2020), the city will assume an open layout, with "one core, two wings, two belts and three bays". The core is Ningbo city. The two wings are the northern wing, comprising the two cities of Yuyao and Cixi and the Hangzhou Bay New Area and the southern wing comprising, Fenghua city, Ninghai county and Xiangshan county. The two belts are the industrial belt of the eastern coastal urban areas and the ecological habitation belt of the western mountainous areas. The three bays are the Hangzhou Bay, the Xiangshan Port and the Sanmen Bay.

According to the above-mentioned urban planning, Ningbo's city centre would be characterised by "one centre city, two sub-centre cities, two cores and three belts". One centre city refers to Sanjiang and the two sub-centre cities refer to Beilun and Zhenhai. The two cores are Sanjiangkou (which means the confluence of the three rivers of Yuyao, Fenghua and Yong) and the Eastern New Town Centre. The three belts are the three residential belts developed on both sides of the three rivers of Yuyao, Fenghua and Yong.

According to the Special Planning for Commercial Outlets in Ningbo City Centre (2005-2020), Ningbo will form a commercial network system with urban commercial centres and district commercial centres as key elements and neighbourhood commercial service facilities as supplementary components. As to the commercial system planning for Ningbo's city centre, a “one core, eight supplementary and multiple points” network structure has been adopted. The “one core” refers to the Sanjiangkou commercial centre. The “eight supplementary” refers to the Yinzhou commercial centre, Eastern New Town commercial centre, Jiangbei Yuanzhuangqiao commercial centre, Jiangdong Qilidian commercial centre, Beilun New District commercial centre, Luotuo commercial centre, Zhenhai Old Town commercial centre, and Jiangbei Hongtang commercial centre. In addition, there are nine commercial clusters at district level. The “multiple points” refer to the 30 or so neighbourhood (residential area) commercial centres.

2.  Ningbo’s Consumer Market

2.1  Growth in Retail Sales

Judging from the retail sales of consumer goods, Ningbo’s consumer market has experienced sustained vibrancy in recent years. In 2014, Ningbo’s retail sales of consumer goods grew 13.5% to Rmb299.2 billion, accounting for 18% of the total retail sales of Zhejiang. Daily average retail sales reach Rmb820 million. Among all industries above a designated scale, the retail sales of petrol and related products grew 14.9%; clothing, footwear, headgear and textiles grew 22.5%; cars grew 7.6%; while food, beverages, tobacco and alcohol grew 8.1%.

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

A change in consumption pattern towards modern living is also reflected in the ownership of consumer durables. Traditional home consumer durables, such as washing machines, refrigerators, TVs and fixed-line telephones are now common. In recent years the ownership of cars, home computers, air-conditioners, microwave ovens and mobile phones has been trending upwards, indicating that Ningbo consumers are going after a modern, comfortable, and healthy quality of life.

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

The per capita disposable income of Ningbo’s urban residents was Rmb44,155 in 2014. Their per capita consumption expenditure reached Rmb27,893. According to 2013 figures, for high-income households, per capita disposable income and per capita consumption expenditure stood at Rmb80,516 and Rmb42,446 respectively.

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

3.  Characteristics of Ningbo’s Consumer Market

3.1  Population Structure

In 2013, the permanent population in Ningbo reached 7.66 million, up 21.3% from 2005 and accounting for 13.9% of Zhejiang’s provincial total.

According to China’s sixth population census, in 2010, of the city’s permanent population, 51% were male, with 11.7% aged 0-14, 75.1% aged 15-59, 4.7% aged 60-64, and 8.6% aged 65 and above.

The education level of Ningbo’s permanent population has been rising markedly, with 10.3% of the people reaching university level, 13.7% having received senior high school education, 37.8% having received junior high school education, and 29.1% reaching primary school level. Compared with the fifth population census, which took place 10 years earlier, the number of people in Ningbo reaching university level rose from 3,441 to 10,333 per 100,000 people.

There were 2.85 million households in Ningbo, with an average size of 2.47 persons. The average household size had decreased by 0.27 person from 10 years earlier.

3.2  Characteristics of Consumers

“Ningbo means business”

Ningbo can be described as the origin of Chinese merchants and the tradition of commerce and trade runs deep here. The people of Ningbo like to go into big businesses, so they are dubbed as “Big Bosses of Ningbo”. Ningbo consumers comprise residents from the urban centres and neighbouring areas, new-comers to Ningbo, as well as migrant workers from outside the city. As a result of differences in their incomes and professions, there are large disparities in their consumption concepts and habits.

Local residents and the common people from neighbouring counties and cities, for example, are prudent spenders who prefer Ningbo's time-honoured shops and traditional stores. New-comers to Ningbo and young consumers, on the other hand, are receptive to outside ideas, with online shopping and trendy malls being their preferred choices. The migrant workers, who mostly work in factories or are engaged in the service industry, have no way of becoming mainstream shoppers though there are huge numbers of them.

Seasonal consumption

Ningbo consumers exhibit a distinctive seasonal consumption pattern. To merchants, May and September-October are the most important seasons for promotion in the whole year. In addition, because of the New Year and Spring Festival, November through February is also a period of enthusiastic consumption.

Different merchandise categories also have different demand seasons. Generally speaking, in June and November, when the seasons are changing, there would be peak demand for clothing and beddings. 3C products (computer, consumer electronics and communications) and children’s toys mostly sell well during the summer and winter vacations. It would also be ideal shopping time during traditional festivals and holidays, like New Year Day, Spring Festival, Valentine’s Day, 1 May, International Children’s Day, National Day and Christmas, when shopping malls redouble their promotion efforts.

Ningbo residents are increasingly rational in their consumption. In the past, lured by shopping mall discount offers, quite a number of Ningbo consumers would buy large quantities of merchandise without caring about their practical value. Such a phenomenon is now disappearing. Instead, more people would shop around and are more targeted in their shopping in different shopping malls. This is also related to the fact that the number of commercial districts is relatively small in Ningbo and shopping malls are quite concentrated in these districts.

Consumption outflow common

Government employees, white-collar workers (particularly those in foreign trade), corporate executives and private enterprises owners are the indisputable main consumption force in Ningbo. Their spending power is substantial and forms the main drive for the thriving consumption of luxury watches in the city. Nevertheless, consumption outflow of this principal consumer group is also quite common. They like to go shopping in places like Shanghai and Hangzhou over the weekend, or when the season changes, because in those places, discounts are deeper, choices of brands are greater and they can also visit friends and relatives. Moreover, there are many who would do their shopping in Hong Kong, Paris and Tokyo, etc during their business or pleasure trips.

Children’s market

Among Ningbo’s consumers there are an appreciable number of students. They have a penchant for trendy and fast moving consumer goods and are attracted to sports and leisure brands targeted at young people. Some enterprising students are running their own business in the vicinity of their schools, or setting up their own sites on taobao.com. Also, because there are an exceptionally large number of small processing factories in places like Yuyao and Cixi, the parents of a sizeable number of students are engaged in business and their families are relatively well-off. As such, these students have become principal consumers among their peers. They attach great importance to luxury comforts and the phenomenon of competitive consumption is evident among them. The people of Ningbo also pay exceptional attention to the consumption needs of their children, and spending for them on food, drinks and education is especially large. Business in specialty stores for maternity and baby articles is also brisk.

Online spending growing

Online retail sales continued to grow in the first quarter of 2015, with total turnover reaching Rmb9.288 billion, ranking second in the whole province. Many goods and services can be bought through the Internet and the choice available is ever-growing. The share of spending on online purchases by shoppers in their daily consumption is expected to see steady growth. A survey has found that the share of spending online will stay level or increase among 90% of consumers, indicating the possibility of a gradual increase of online spending among shoppers and that there is considerable room for Internet shopping growth.

4.  Profiles of Ningbo’s Major Commercial Districts


This is Ningbo’s busiest core commercial district. Here one can find shopping malls and department stores, such as the International Shopping Center, Intime Department Store, Tesco Supermarket, Yongle Electrical Appliances and Ningbo Ego Digital Square. Whereas Intime targets the fashion conscious in the mid to high-income consumer group, Ningbo No.2 Department Store is oriented towards local residents in the urban area. In general, different shopping malls are positioned differently.

Tianyi Square, located on the south side of Zhongshan Road, a busy commercial street in the city centre, is the core of this commercial district, covering an area of 200,000 sqm. In this plaza there are 10 commercial zones, including a supermarket zone, an emporium zone, a clothing zone and a hotel zone. Altogether there are more than 300 shops of various sizes, offering facilities in shopping, leisure, entertainment, culture and travel that cater to the needs of consumers of all ages. Tianyi Square is the shopping destination of choice for Ningbo residents and also a must-go place for residents of neighbouring counties and cities when they come shopping in Ningbo during holidays.

Heyi Road

This commercial district is only one street away from Tianyi commercial district and is the converging point of top international luxury brands in Ningbo. Thus, it is regarded as the finishing touch of Tianyi commercial district. Heyi Avenue Shopping Centre has the ambition of becoming the top spot for leisure and commerce in Ningbo. Positioned as the most upmarket shopping centre in Ningbo, it boasts 100,000 sqm in floor area and a trendy architectural design. Since its opening in 2009, over 20 million customers are said to have visited the shopping centre. Top-notch brands offered at this shopping centre include Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Christian Dior, Cartier, Ermenegildo Zegna, Emporio Armani and Dunhill.

Also found in Heyi Avenue Shopping Centre are Ningbo’s signature time-honoured restaurant Zhuangyuanlou and high-end fine-dining brand W1, as well as restaurants offering Japanese, Italian and other cuisines.

Picture: Ningbo’s Major Commercial Districts
Picture: Ningbo’s Major Commercial Districts

The Bund

This is a commercial district with the most cultural characteristics in Ningbo and is situated at the confluence of three rivers, the Yong, Fenghua and Yuyao. Designated in 1842 as one of the five trading ports under the Treaty of Nanking, it was opened to foreign countries 20 years earlier than Shanghai and was the first treaty port in mainland China. A row of foreign consulates, catholic churches, banks and vessel terminals line the riverbanks, which together serve as an encapsulated historical record of Ningbo. Extension of the Ningbo old Bund now under planning stretches from Renmin Road in the north to Waima Road in the south, and from Erheng Street in the west to Chezhan Road in the east. Covering an area of about 44,000 sqm, this district will have a floor area of 80,000 sqm and a riverside section of about 600 metres in length.

Consumers in this commercial district are mainly white-collar workers, owners of foreign trade companies and foreigners. This is China's first urban functional district embracing the latest real estate concepts. Divided by a theme commercial street in the middle, there are six blocks with some 40 buildings dotting the two sides. These buildings house bars, entertainment and leisure facilities and retail shops, forming an integrated high-end consumer district for a trendy Shanghai lifestyle.

Yuehu Shengyuan

Yuehu Shengyuan (月湖盛園) is located in Ningbo’s old city centre where the Qujiaxiang historic block used to be. This commercial project stretches from New Jiefang Road South in the east to Zhenming Road in the west and south, and to Xianxue community in the north. Lying adjacent to the Yuehu Historic Cultural District, it is one of the few traditional historic blocks that have survived in urban Ningbo. Covering a total area of 39,000 sqm and a total floor area of 50,000 sqm, it is the first of Ningbo’s eight historic cultural blocks that underwent development as a conservation project. With Yuehu Shengyuan as its core, this commercial district aims to create an area offering chic dining, themed retail, leisure entertainment and cultural features under one roof where one can get a taste of the culture of the southern regions of the Yangtze and international lifestyle at the same time.

Yinzhou District

Located in Yinzhou District, Wanda commercial district is another commercial hub in the southern part of Ningbo and a consumer sub-centre in the urban area. Situated in the core area of Yinzhou, Wanda Plaza Ningbo is a large complex comprising three sections, including an international shopping mall, an international business hotel, and high-end apartments.

Since this commercial district lies next to enterprises, universities and high-grade residential communities, the consumer groups here, including migrant workers, students and white-collar workers, are very distinct from one another.

Best Square in Yinzhou District will likely be the most upmarket commercial district in future. Located at the junction of Qianhu Road and Songjiang Road, this project will have a business floor area of nearly 230,000 sqm and comprise three commercial projects, including Smart Plaza, Beijing Hualian and SCPG (Shopping Center Professionals Group).

Other shopping centres

CapitaLand commercial district - Located at Binshui, the centre of Jiangbei District in Ningbo, this district offers a total floor area of 50,000 sqm of commercial space, housing hypermarkets, cinemas, entertainment facilities and branded stores.

Yinyi commercial district - Located around Hongtang Middle Road in the Hongtang neighbourhood, Jiangbei, this district mainly features hypermarkets and dining and entertainment facilities.

Baoqing Temple commercial district - Centred around Baoqing Temple, this district is defined by Yuyao River in the south, North Ring Road West in the north, Xiaoshan-Ningbo Railway in the east and Jiangbei Road in the west. A major commercial project with a total floor area of about 200,000 sqm, it opened to business in 2011. It is a commercial complex housing large department stores, hypermarkets, cinemas, restaurants, and a comprehensive entertainment venue.

New Star Commercial Centre (新星商業中心) - This is another large-scale commercial centre in Haishu District. Located to the west of Tianyi Square, it sits at the junction of West Ring Road and North Ring Road. The commercial component of this project will offer one-stop facilities in shopping, dining, leisure and entertainment. It will also introduce high-level commercial clusters of different businesses in an effort to forge a comprehensive commercial plaza.

East Bund cultural corridor - Situated in Ningbo’s Jiangdong District, this project will gradually extend the functions of a research and development park (high-tech zone) to a creative and cultural industrial base with development priority on applied technologies, such as industrial design, standardised testing, etc. In addition, there will be an integration of ecology, residential and cultural elements. It is planned that the creative and cultural industrial base and Binjiang leisure base will be brought to completion by end-2015, forming a functional cluster zone embracing ecology, leisure and culture.

Century Oriental Plaza - Located in Jiangdong District, this plaza fills the long unfilled gap for a commercial complex at district level. This plaza is primarily a commercial project complemented by business functions offering shopping and leisure facilities, offices and apartments under one roof.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
Comments (0)
Shows local time in Hong Kong (GMT+8 hours)

HKTDC welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers.
Review our Comment Policy

*Add a comment (up to 5,000 characters)