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Weihai: Profile of a Consumer Market

1.  Economic Overview and Development Planning

Weihai, at the eastern tip of Shandong Peninsula, is flanked by the Yellow Sea on three sides, faces Liaodong Peninsula and the Korean Peninsula across the sea, and adjoins the city of Yantai to the west. The city is easily accessible. With six ports, including the ice-free Weihai deep-water port, it boasts a comprehensive port system, with a general port, a container port, a liquid chemicals port and a tour terminal. In 2014, its GDP was Rmb279 billion, representing a real growth of 9.8% year-on-year. The value-added of industry accounted for 50% of the city's GDP, while that of the services sector accounted for 42%.

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

Weihai has developed into a modern manufacturing base, with strong supporting industries. Fortune 500 companies, such as Samsung Electronics, Samsung Heavy Industries and Hyundai Motor of South Korea, Mitsubishi, Itochu and Japan Tobacco, Bekaert of Belgium, and Invensys of the UK, all have investments in Weihai. The city plans to consolidate and enhance the development advantages of traditional industries and accelerate the pace of transformation and upgrade of its four major traditional industries, namely machine building, food processing, transport equipment manufacturing, and textile and garment, with quality and efficiency as the core and change of development mode and restructuring as the direction. Meanwhile, efforts will be made to expedite the development of three emerging industries, new information, new medicines and medical equipment, new materials and products, in a move to position itself in the high-end market and excel in innovative technology.

Weihai, with its rich marine resources, is also one of China's biggest fishing industry bases. Sea cucumbers, abalones and urchins are known as the ‘three sea treasures’ of the city. Riding on its rich marine product resources, Weihai proactively implements the farming, marine, husbandry and fishing policy and participates in the exploitation of international fishing resources, building the largest modern ocean-going fishing fleet in Shandong province. Great efforts are also devoted to developing the deep processing of farm and side-line products, with marine products as the core. The marine food processing industry is being built with sea weed, sea cucumber, tuna and cuttlefish as the main products, and establishing the largest frozen marine food, seaweed products and canned seafood production base in the country.

Weihai is also an important production base for grains, oil and fruit. Its peanuts, apples and cherries are known as the ‘three land treasures’. Weihai will advance the modernisation of agriculture in a move to continue to raise the quality of its agricultural products and market competitiveness.

A famous seaside resort and tourist spot in the country, the city received 32.89 million domestic and foreign tourists and generated Rmb38.4 billion in tourism receipts in 2014, an increase of 9.7% and 13.3% respectively over the previous year. Of this, 32.44 million were domestic tourists, while 450,000 were foreign. Foreign exchange earnings from tourism amounted to US$240 million.

During the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015), Weihai started optimising its urban layout by building ‘one core, one belt and three grouped districts’. ‘One core’ refers to the central areas of Weihai, including Huancui District, High-Tech Industrial Development Zone, Economic and Technological Development Zone, and New Industrial Zone. Together, these areas form the core of economic and social development and urbanisation of the city. ‘One belt’ refers to an urban belt of 21 towns, including Gushan, Gangxi, Chengshan, Hushan, Zeku and Haiyangsuo, that lies along the 1,000-km coastal highway. ‘Three grouped districts’ refers to Chengshan-Rongcheng-Shidao, Wendeng-Nanhai New Area, and Rushan-Yintan Tourist Resort, which form a comprehensive urban cluster and industrial development pole. In the years to come, Weihai will implement four ‘three-year breakthrough’ plans aimed at expediting the development of public service facilities and industrial projects in Haibin New City in the eastern part of the city. The integration of Wendeng District and central urban districts will also be advanced, as well as enhancing the clustering and development capability of Nanhai New District, and promoting industrial restructuring of Rushan.

2.  Weihai's Consumer Market

2.1  Growth in Retail Sales

Weihai's consumer market has been moving on a steady course in recent years as its economy continues to expand. In 2014, retail sales of consumer goods amounted to Rmb118.19 billion, up 12.9% from the previous year. In terms of sector, sales of wholesale and retail grew 13.1%, while hospitality and catering rose 11.2%. Trading and economic activities were particularly brisk in the private sector, with retail sales up 13.3%. In terms of product category, sales of daily-use articles as well as quality-of-life-enhancing products all registered increases. Among these, the retail sales of furniture items grew 32% in 2014, sales of electronic publications and audio-visual products jumped 23.6%, Chinese and western medicines rose 23.5%, communications devices grew 22.5%, cosmetics increased 18.5%, and daily-use articles went up 17%.

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

A comparison of the ownership of consumer goods by urban households in Weihai from 2004 to 2013 shows increases in most items, including middle-class consumer goods, such as computers and mobile phones, as in other major Chinese cities. In particular, car ownership has risen markedly in recent years.

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 income of urban and rural residents in Weihai has been steadily increasing in recent years. In 2014, the per capita disposable income of urban residents was Rmb34,254, up 8.9% year on year. The per capita net income of farmers was Rmb17,296, up 11%. Meanwhile, the per capita consumption expenditure of urban residents was Rmb22,549, a growth of 12% year on year, and the per capita consumption expenditure of farmers was Rmb9,725, up 14.5%.

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

3.  Characteristics of Weihai’s Consumer Market

3.1  Population Structure

In 2014, Weihai had a permanent population of 2.809 million.

According to China's sixth population census, among the permanent population in Weihai in 2010, there were 1.022 million households consisting of 2.549 million people, with an average of 2.49 members in each household, 0.11 persons fewer than 10 years earlier.

Among the permanent population, 50.4% were male and 49.6% female. 10.1% belong to the 0-14 age group, 77.9% are 15-64, and the rest are aged 65 or above. In terms of education, 9.5% have received university/college education or above, 63% have received secondary school education, and the rest have received primary school education.

3.2  Characteristics of Consumers

In Weihai, consumption patterns are undergoing changes, moving upward from basic consumption of food, clothing and daily-use articles to improved housing, cars, jewellery and luxury watches, beauty and cosmetic surgery, travel and holiday, leisure and fishing, trendy food and entertainment. Meanwhile, led by upper-class locals, as well as big spenders from Korea, Japan and Russia, consumption of upmarket luxury items, such as hot spring holidays, golfing, yachting and beachside villas is growing in leaps and bounds. However, due to the limited size of Weihai, it still lags behind cities in the province, such as Qingdao and Jinan, in terms of the number of commercial enterprises above a designated scale.

High-end consumption leads the trend

During the tourist peak summer season, five-star hotels in Weihai are crowded with big spenders from both the mainland and other countries. According to development plans, in the next two to three years clusters of five-star hotels will be built in Beihai resort beach and Jiulong Bay resort beach in the south, while in the downtown Jinxianding area construction of a world-class seaside complex is underway, funded by CR Land. The whole Jinxianding project will encompass an international tourist resort area housing commercial, office, cultural, entertainment, marine sightseeing, leisure, holiday and residential facilities under one roof.

In the winter, Weihai is a paradise for hot spring baths and skiing. Hailed as the capital of hot springs in China, Weihai boasts Tangbo Hot Spring and Tianmu Hot Spring, which are international five-star grade resorts offering natural hot springs, leisure, entertainment, business conference, and holiday facilities. The professional golf courses in Weihai also attract golfers from all over the country, as well as Korea and Japan.

Trendy consumption becomes mainstream

In the last couple of years, the opening of shopping centres, including Wego Mall and Marina Bay shopping mall, have joined the Japanese Aeon Shopping Center, which opened for business over four years ago. Shopping malls emphasising experiential consumption, such as trendy dining, movies, entertainment, fast fashion, and recreational activities for families and children have now become mainstream commercial facilities in Weihai. These shopping malls also represent a breakthrough from the traditional singular business mode of department stores. Experiential consumption such as eating, drinking and entertainment, accounts for 40% of total consumption. As such, the new business mode of shopping centres is burgeoning.

The rapid expansion of trendy and quality consumption is also reflected by the aggressive entry of Korean and Japanese consumer brands, opening shops here one after another. Weihai is the Chinese city which is geographically closest to Korea. Hence, it is the place where Korean fashion, cosmetics, eateries, beauty care services and cosmetic surgery services are most comprehensive, most concentrated and largest in scale on the mainland. Buying Korean products and eating Korean food has become an important leisure activity for tourists coming to Weihai.

Traditional consumption still assumes great importance

Traditional consumption during festivals, holidays and year-end promotions in Weihai normally brings about brisk shopping sprees. Garments, clothing accessories, digital products, home appliances and hi-fi equipment closely related to people’s daily life are consumption hot spots. Various kinds of specialised clothing markets and digital products hypermarkets are favourite shopping grounds for local consumers. In the face of changes in market competition, traditional department stores, in order to meet consumer preferences, have actively adjusted their operation strategies by increasing the proportion of experiential consumption zones offering catering, entertainment, movie and leisure facilities, as well as increasing the availability of parking spaces as much as possible. However, due to backward commercial planning, the lack of parking spaces has become a factor restraining the further development of core commercial districts in Weihai.

Weihai, blessed with a scenic environment, pleasant climate and convenient transportation brought about by the opening of the inter-city railway, has attracted a large number of property buyers from outside the city. Real estate consumption has directly boosted home products and building materials consumption, making Weihai’s home products and building materials market extremely developed compared to other cities of the same grade. The mushrooming of Green Home, Meile Letian Housing and Home World has also brought about fierce competition. Marine-related industries and products, such as fishing gear and sea cucumbers, are another traditional advantage of Weihai. The annual China (Weihai) Fishing Gear Manufacturing Center Expo draws large crowds of fishing lovers from within China and around the world.

4.  Profiles of Weihai's Major Commercial Districts

After years of development, the commercial sector in Weihai has outgrown the previous backward layout of featuring only one urban commercial district and is now moving towards the development of multiple commercial districts. Currently, commercial districts that have taken shape in Weihai include: City Centre commercial district, High-Tech Zone commercial district, Economic Zone commercial district, Zhudao commercial district, and Jiulong commercial district. Among these, City Centre commercial district, the most mature, is located in Huancui District; High-Tech Zone is located inside the High-Tech Industrial Development Zone; Economic Zone is located in the core section of the Economic and Technological Development Zone; while Zhudao and Jiulong commercial districts are relatively new, with fewer commercial projects.

Picture: Weihai’s Major Commercial Districts
Picture: Weihai’s Major Commercial Districts

City Centre

The City Centre commercial district is located in the prime section of Weihai city. With an area of less than two sq km, surrounded by commercial streets including Haibin North Road, Tongyi Road, Kunming Road, Shichang Avenue, Qingdao Road, Xinwei Road and Wenhua East Road, this commercial district is home to over a dozen department stores, home appliance shops, shopping centres, and hypermarkets, in addition to a jewellery street, wedding photography cluster, specialty garment street and specialty catering street. All these major stores and specialty commercial streets have made City Centre a city-level commercial district with breadth and depth as well as outstanding commercial flair.

Leading traditional department stores in the City Centre commercial district include Zhenhua Shopping Center, Inzone, Hualian Commercial Building, Hualian shopping mall and Jinhou Shopping Plaza. These department stores mainly sell garments, cosmetics, jewellery, luxury watches and daily-use household goods. Inzone, which opened for business in 2012, is not only a magnet, drawing local high-end consumers, but has also become a commercial landmark of Weihai, complete with a supermarket and eateries.

Wego Mall, which opened for business in 2013, is the most attractive commercial facility in the City Centre, bringing a pleasant surprise to the local people. As the largest single commercial project in this commercial district, it offers a one-stop shopping experience by bringing in Lotte Department Store, Lotte Mart and Lotte IMAX cinemas. Wego Mall draws large crowds of consumers and has become a new commercial and lifestyle centre in Weihai. Lotte Department Store in Weihai is the Lotte Group’s first wholly-owned upmarket department store in Shandong province. Like Lotte Department Store in Seoul, Korea, the Weihai store offers pleasant Korean-style services and a high-end department store environment. One of the biggest attractions of Wego Mall is the offer of premium Korean services. The recent entry of Shouermei Korean lifestyle hall, a chain store mainly selling Korean brands, which offers a wide array of Korean fashion accessories, food products, daily-use chemical products and household goods in a 400-sqm sales space, has already won the hearts of local consumers.

Moreover, there are many shopping malls in the City Centre offering Korean products which attract a great number of out-of-town consumers, as well as local shoppers. Also found in this commercial district are digital home appliance hypermarkets, including Weihai Suning Plaza and Gome Electrical Appliances. The presence of Huanqiu Shopping Plaza (環球購物廣場), Weihai World (威海大世界), Jiajiayue Shopping Center and Jinhou Shopping Plaza has enriched the consumption level of the commercial district, meeting the demands of different consumer groups.

High-Tech Industrial Development Zone (High-Tech Zone)

High-Tech Zone commercial district is the most important industrial base in Weihai. The presence of foreign-invested enterprises, like Samsung Electronics, Hualing Electronics, Gaoxin Daewoo Electronic Components and Dongbao Pharmaceuticals, has spurred the development of the district. High-Tech Zone owes its early commercial development to regional building materials and furniture markets. Weihan Mall and Dasha Building Materials Plaza (大廈建材商場), which already have quite a long history in the city, mainly target the general public. Liqun Shopping Plaza is the only department store here and is also the first department store from out of town. It targeted mid-market consumers initially, but has eventually made adjustments in the light of the generally lower level of consumption in this part of town.

The situation has changed because the property boom in recent years, bringing many high-end consumers to this district. To target this consumer group, Haiyue International has set up Haiyue International Shopping Plaza, positioned in the mid- to high-end market. While New Weihan Mall (新威韓商城) in the City Centre is a high-end shopping and leisure facility, Gaoxin Trade Plaza (高新商貿廣場), with a gross floor area of 376,000 sqm, is positioned as a modern complex housing commercial, financial, hospitality, catering, cultural and entertainment facilities under one roof. Weihai General Merchandise Mall Group will invest in the building of the Weibai Shopping Centre (威百購物中心) in the Technology New Town (科技新城). With these new developments, the burgeoning prime commercial district of High-Tech Zone is not to be overlooked.

Although the High-Tech Zone commercial district has not undergone any major changes in the last two years, the opening of the inter-city railway Weihai North Station will bring more visitor flow and opportunities to the commercial district, propelling its development.

Zhudao

Zhudao is an emerging commercial district in Weihai. It is conveniently located at the junction of Huancui District and Economic Zone, and easy accessibility has brought many consumers to this area. Qiaoxiang Shopping Plaza (僑鄉購物廣場) at the centre of this commercial district houses crowd-pullers like RT-Mart, Gome, and Teyijia Global Home Furnishing Plaza, together with many other retail chains, restaurants, and entertainment facilities. Green Home is the largest shopping centre for home furnishings in this district and the brand is already a household name.

A business service area, with banks, offices and supermarkets is gradually taking shape on both sides of Qingdao North Road in Zhudao commercial district. Billions of yuan will be invested over the next few years in developing the Jinxianding area in the east into an international seaside resort. With a gross floor area of 1.2 million sqm, it will have facilities for commerce, finance, culture, entertainment, marine tourism and vacation, in addition to an ocean park. This will no doubt facilitate Zhudao's further development.

Economic and Technological Development Zone (Economic Zone)

Economic Zone is a fast-growing commercial centre in the southern part of Weihai. At the junction of Shanghai Road and Qingdao Middle Road stand a number of large shopping centres, such as Times Square (時代廣場), Meimei Plaza (每美商城), Times Home Square (時代家居廣場), and Haoye-Shengdi Plaza (豪業—聖迪廣場). High-end projects completed most recently include Aeon Shopping Center and Lotte Century City. Also, the entry of the second store of Weihai Inzone, encompassing Inzone department store and Inzone supermarket, is expected to raise the level of consumption in this district.

Economic Zone has distinct characteristics of its own, in spite of its short history. Times Square is the place to go for trendy Korean goods, while Haoye-Shengdi Plaza has many restaurants and cinemas. Aeon Shopping Center of Japan and Lotte Mart of Korea offer a different and more exotic shopping experience to the local people. Meile Letian Housing and Teyijia Global Home Furnishing Plaza, which carry a full range of furniture and household goods, are attracting consumers even from other areas. The establishment of the Korean Food Street, Korean Music Square and Korean Specialty Street has added strong exotic flavour to the Economic Zone. This commercial district is not only home to thousands of Koreans, but is also blessed with such geographical advantages as the presence of a railway station, bus terminal, seaport passenger terminal and Weihai inter-city railway station. As such, the district is full of vigour, trendiness and diversity, propelling the development of the city’s commercial sector to new heights.

Jiulong Bay

Jiulong Bay is a new commercial district in Weihai. Currently, its development mainly relies on the Jiulong City Leisure Shopping Mall, located to the west of Xianggang Road and to the south of Daqing Road. This project comprises office blocks, commercial facilities and serviced apartments, and is a large-scale complex housing residential, office, shopping, catering, entertainment, leisure and sporting facilities under one roof. One of the representative commercial facilities in Jiulong City Leisure Shopping Mall is Wanda Cinemas, another is a Korean products hall, which Jiajiayue plans to set up in the mall. This hall also offers native Chinese products to attract Korean tourists.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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