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Cold weather study shows four in ten urban Chinese still plan to travel this Lunar New Year


* Four in five have bought food or consumer goods to help them through the cold; and three in five still intend to
* 83% say snow will not dampen one aspect of New Year... the amount in their red packets
* 46% expect the Year of the Rat will be even more prosperous than last year

HONG KONG — Leading global market research firm Synovate, today released data showing that, despite the big chill, 39% of urban Chinese still intend to travel outside the city they normally live in this Lunar New Year. Of these travellers, 53% have had to change their plans due to the cold weather but are nonetheless embarking on journeys, illustrating the importance of family and also the resilience of people.

The study was conducted online over 2-3 February 2008 and asked over 500 urban Chinese from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Wuhan and its surrounding cities about how the snow and cold have impacted their travel plans and purchasing behaviour; and also some general attitudes about this Chinese New Year celebration.

CEO of Synovate China, Darryl Andrew, said the study covered major cities, all of which had been affected in different ways by the worst snow storms China has seen in fifty years.

“We did this survey online to get near-instant results for our clients. We are a company that works with marketers, so we set out to find out a little more about consumer sentiment. The speed of turnaround is important because it captures experiences and attitudes almost as they happen,” he said.

Going home - travel plans over the New Year period

* 61% are not planning to travel over the Lunar New Year period and of these people, 52% are not travelling because of the bad weather.
* 61% will not see one or more of their family members this New Year - that number is highest in Guangzhou where two thirds of all people will be missing out on seeing all their loved ones. This is probably due to a combination of disproportionately more non-local residents with family outside Guangzhou, as well as the Government programme advising against travel at this time.

A chilly point of view

The study also asked people about their attitudes to the cold weather and snow.

* 16% agreed that the cold weather was a novelty and they were enjoying it, but a third say they hate the cold weather and will be staying inside as much as possible. People from Shanghai were most likely to be having a good time (28%) and those from Guangzhou were having the hardest time of things with 47% disliking it.
* 36% of urban Chinese liked the weather at first but are now sick of it and 16% say it is worrying them. People from Beijing are the biggest worriers with 21% saying they are concerned about it.
* Only one in five Chinese in the study report not having seen snow in the last two weeks, 27% say they saw snow and loved or liked it and another 13% enjoyed it and even went outside to play. Again, the people in Shanghai were having the most fun, with two thirds professing like or love for the blanket of snow on their city.
* People in Wuhan seem to be the most matter-of-fact, with 38% agreeing that life and work go on whether it’s snowing or not, the highest level of agreement with that statement. Another 24% of people from Wuhan agreed that they hated the snow, but they probably had more of it than most other people!

Staying warm: Consumer purchases and purchase intention

Synovate asked urban Chinese consumers about what they had purchased in order to fend off the cold.

* Two thirds of Chinese have purchased extra clothing during this period of cold, including 80% in Wuhan and 81% in Guangzhou
* A third of Chinese consumers have purchased extra bedding due to the weather. Again, Guangzhou topped the scale with 45% piling on the blankets
* 31% have bought extra food specifically for the conditions (in addition to the usual festive food for the Lunar New Year celebrations), with 51% in Wuhan stocking up just in case
* 30% have bought extra heating, in the form of heaters, wood, coal or other fuels
* 22% have bought new footwear, including 33% in Wuhan
* 19% have bought extra water or other beverages
* Only 7% have bought new candles and 6% new batteries
* 21% have bought nothing extra, saying things have been the same

The study also addressed purchase intention, asking people what they intend to buy over the next two weeks to help them cope with the weather.

* Three in five Chinese still intend to purchase items to help them get through the big chill
* A total of 38% say they will buy more warm clothing, with the number up to 49% in Guangzhou
* 31% will buy additional food
* 21% are looking to keep their feet warm, on the hunt for new footwear
* 19% will buy extra water and 18% more heating products

Chinese confidence remains solid heading into the Year of the Rat

Despite the cold, the Lunar New Year is the biggest Chinese holiday period and celebration of the year, so the study also asked people about their outlook for the year ahead.

* When asked about optimism heading into the Year of the Rat, 46% said this year will be even more prosperous for them than the Year of the Pig was; 44% do not expect greater prosperity; and only 9% said they felt a bit nervous about what the coming year would bring.
* The greatest confidence was in Beijing, with 55% expecting greater prosperity. This could be the Olympic effect at work.
* 49% do not expect red packets, but among the 51% who do, 13% are expecting more money than they got last year. 24% expect the same and 14% expect less.
* 73% say they give red packets, and 30% will be giving more than they did this time last year. 36% will give the same and 7% will give less.
* Going by the higher percentage of red packet givers, and the larger amounts per packet, it looks like there will be some nice surprises in store for recipients. This may also reflect the little ’baby-boom’ which occurred in the Year of the Pig. The pig zodiac sign is very popular and there was a noticeable spike in the birth rate over the last year. Traditionally, the new babies will receive red packets (given to their parents to look after).
* 83% say the cold weather will not reduce the amount of money that goes into lai see, meaning at least one aspect of Chinese New Year is relatively immune to the cold.
* The study also asked people to name their favourite Chinese zodiac sign other than their own and the rankings were:

1. Dragon - 20%
2. Pig - 15%
3. Tiger - 11%
4. Rabbit - 10%
5. Rat and Dog - both 9%
7. Ox - 6%
8. Monkey - 5%
9. Horse, Goat and Rooster - all 4%
12. Snake - 3%


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