The Week in China: Starbucks Spreads Holiday Cheer, KFC Splits, China’s ‘Doorbusters’ and more


China is the second largest economy in the world and every significant brand’s future is impacted by its growth (or collapse)—but who’s got the time?! Here’s the week’s reads that will make you look like a keen China observer in case you find yourself immersed in a cultural conversation.

This week: Starbucks and Christmas time come (again) to China… Ford outpacing GM… KFC breaks up… Nissan turns to heartthrobs… Ferrari owner age… Twitter’s Asia strategy… Hugo Boss woes… so long, cognac… how China does “door busters”… and more.[more]

Black Friday signaled that Christmas season has arrived in earnest in the US. But it’s already in full swing in China. In the wake of the massive 11/11 “Single’s Day” online shopping extravaganza, brands in China have been gearing up to sell Christmas to Chinese consumers increasingly engaged with the holiday. And in China, Christmas belongs to gift-giving Santa alone, without any pesky spiritual noise to draw away from it being purely a commercial holiday. As we’ve noted in the past about the holiday and China: “In China, Christmas has belonged to Santa from the beginning. Even linguistically this is true; the Chinese word for Christmas (圣诞节 shèngdànjié) does not share any of the same characters as that for Jesus Christ (耶稣基督 sēsūJīdū), while Santa Claus is known as 圣诞老人 (shèngdànlǎorén), or literally “Old Man Christmas.”

And when it comes to Christmas and China, no brand has done it better or moved the holiday along more than Starbucks. For years now, Starbucks has not only offered special holiday fare—this year Starbucks is offering more Christmas cups and cakes—but also used the latest marketing strategies to drive Christmas buy-in. A few years ago, the coffee chain produced a special app and this year Starbucks has launched “Christmas Wish in Starbucks.” The campaign uses social network Weibo and allows users to become “mayors” of their local Starbucks by sending out gift wishes to a number of their followers.

Starbucks may have lead the way but now Christmas is a must-market holiday for all retailers. China World Mall in Beijing is running a promotion involving its Christmas tree lighting ceremony and a partnership with Mont Blanc China, wherein Weibo users who forward children’s drawing of Christmas scenes may win prizes. Christmas decorations hanging in restaurant windows is now the norm. The only mystery: Why are Chinese Santas always playing the saxophone?

Meanwhile, when it comes to the most lucrative Christmas shoppers in the region, Hong Kongers take the cake. A new study found that 92 percent of the city’s respondents said they will spend at least as much or more than last year on the holiday. Similar responses from the Asia-Pacific region as a whole averaged just 84 percent. The study also found that Hong Kong shoppers plan to spend, on average, about $310 on Christmas gifts.

And forget Black Friday doorbusters. Above is the scene at a recent run-of-the-mill Sogo department store opening in Hong Kong.

More China News:

– The director of the documentary Death by China published his list of six (not 10?) reasons not to not buy “made in China” this holiday season.

–  The average age of a Ferrari buyer in the US is 47; in China, it’s 32.

– Can a Chinese heartthrob rescue Nissan—and Japanese automakers—in Japan-hostile China?

– Ford is absolutely crushing GM in China.

– Apple is losing in China to Samsung and Xiaomi.

– Meanwhile, Xiaomi is testing out the Taiwan market.

– China’s “Jeans City” in talks with Alibaba.

– Have you heard about China’s upcoming hearing aid market boom?

– In less than 15 years, crowdfunding in China might be a $50 billion business.

– The New York Times on Bloomberg’s shifting business strategy for China.

– China used car market is expanding quickly.

– Hugo Boss is in trouble in China.

– KFC shuffles the deck chairs and will report KFC China (and India) results separately. 

– Another entry in the long question of who in China will boost electric car sales.

– China’s exploding mobile payments market is approaching $130 billion a year.

– Does Twitter need an “Asia strategy?”

– Chinese tourists are social media-ing everything while traveling. What does that mean for travel businesses?

– China is studying photoshop. Why?

– China moves into Silicon Valley.

– Shenzhen has a crazy awesome new $1.4 billion airport.

Finally, Burberry released its new Christmas campaign in China even as the brand fights for the rights to its trademark in that same nation.