New Articles

American and Chinese Consumers are Shopping Like There’s No Trade War


American and Chinese Consumers are Shopping Like There’s No Trade War

What Trade War?

If shoppers are worried about the U.S.-China trade war, it’s not showing up yet in measures of their buying confidence or holiday retail sales.

We are more than a year into dueling tariffs between the United States and China, and we know that tariffs add costs to supply chains, but how much of those costs are passed on the consumer depends on decisions by manufacturers, buyers and retailers as well as the “import-intensity” of the products we buy.

So far, if prices have risen on consumer products, it’s not dampening American appetites to buy. And Chinese consumers don’t rely to a great degree on imports in general, so China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports don’t appear to be the biggest factor in their personal spending either.

Spending and the U.S. Economy

At the end of the third quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that U.S. consumer spending was on track for $14.67 trillion this year, reaching an all-time high.

Personal expenditures make up 68 percent of the U.S. economy, and it’s consumer spending that’s keeping growth of our economy from slowing further. (By comparison, our “negative net exports” or total exports minus total imports, comprise five percent of U.S. GDP.)

Two-thirds of spending is on services such as housing and health care, which are largely impervious to the trade war. The remaining third is spent on non-durable goods such as clothing and groceries, and on durable goods such as cars and appliances.

Brimming with Confidence

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index is a monthly report on consumer attitudes and buying intentions. Despite analysts’ expectations that concerns related to trade disputes would cause U.S. consumers to become cautious, the index shows a trend of rising consumer confidence since 2009.

Breaking Records Online

Retail sales figures tell us whether that confidence is translating into spending. Indeed, American consumers are still filling their real and virtual shopping carts to the brim.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 165 million people were expected to shop over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Online sales for last holiday weekend are already being reported and appear to be breaking records.

Americans spent $7.4 billion online on Black Friday, up 19.6 percent from last year. We spent another $3.6 billion on Small Business Saturday, up 18 percent from last year. And while surfing from our desks at work, Americans spent $9.2 billon on Cyber Monday, up 16.9 percent from last year. More than half of Americans surveyed by NRF said they start their holiday shopping the first week of November. Online sales for November came in at a whopping $72.1 billion.

Chinese Consumers Outspent Us All

Cyber Monday is so successful in driving online sales in the United States that Canada, the UK and Germany have all adopted Cyber Monday to kick off their holiday shopping seasons. Australia launched “Click Frenzy” day. The Netherlands’ equivalent is linked to the December 5 Sinterklaas holiday.

But hands down, the world’s largest 24-hour online shopping day goes to China’s Singles Day held on November 11 annually. This year, Chinese online shoppers bought $38.3 billion on Singles Day alone. Think of it this way – that’s more than $1 billion every hour.

This is not a one-day phenomenon. If you were to overlay China’s consumer confidence index with that of the United States, they would look similar. Despite being slightly lower for China and with a dip in 2016 that we didn’t see in the United States, consumer confidence rose between 2014 and remained high in 2019, trade war notwithstanding. In mid-2019, retail spending in China surpassed retail spending in the United States for this first time.

Retail Spending in China Exceeds US

Beyond the Tariff Headlines

Financial analysts are watching China’s consumer spending carefully amidst the trade war. Many said this summer’s drop in car purchases was a harbinger that shoppers are growing wary, but the slowdown also coincided with the end of big discounts. Others say retail sales actually underestimate the strength of China’s overall consumer spending because those numbers offer just a partial picture of personal spending on goods and services, which include large expenditures on healthcare, education and leisure activities.

For this reason, some prominent Chinese investors are nonplussed by the Trump Administration’s tariffs. They look at a decline in certain manufacturing and exports as a structural shift in China’s economy – an “economic rebalancing” – that began long before the current trade war. In their view, household consumption will drive most of China’s future economic growth, and China’s consumer spending is not very dependent on imports.

According to World Bank data, consumer imports comprise just 13 percent of China’s overall imports. Most of the large multinational consumer goods companies now produce in China for the Chinese consumer. According to McKinsey analysis, across key consumer categories including personal digital devices and personal care products, Chinese brands have become credible competitors to foreign brands, acquiring greater market share – and shielding Chinese consumers from tariffs on U.S. imports.

Consumer Spending to Play Bigger Role in China’s Growth

Consumption is playing a much larger role in China’s economic growth than just a few years ago. In 2011, consumer spending accounted for less than 50 percent of China’s GDP growth. Last year, it accounted for 76 percent of GDP growth, outpacing both manufacturing investment and exports.

In fact, China’s total exports of goods and services as a percentage of GDP has dropped from a high of 36 percent in 2006 to 19.5 percent in 2018, with exports to the United States at just four percent.

That why China’s central bank is also monitoring consumer sentiment. In recently released results from its biennial survey of 18,600 residents in 31 provinces, nearly 80 percent of respondents expressed caution about spending and a preference for saving.

China’s politburo has directed the government to focus on turning up the tap of consumer spending by China’s growing urban middle class and to kick-start spending in rural areas. The government already cut personal income taxes and began offering subsidies for large ticket energy-saving home appliances and energy efficient vehicles. The government is expected to announce more measures in the coming months designed to goose household spending.

WB Chart Title China Exports as % of GDP

Business is Ill at Ease

Economists worry the trade war is causing a drag on economic growth, not just in the United States and China but globally. Businesses say the trade war with its escalating tariffs is a “wild card” in their planning. Uncertainty is causing them to hold back on capital expenditures.

It’s looking less likely the United States and China will agree to a “Phase 1” trade deal by the end of the year, but even if they do, the partial deal may not be enough to restore business confidence. If businesses continue to hold back on investments and reduce inventories, it could start to negatively impact jobs and incomes. This may be particularly true in China where a larger portion of the population is dependent on manufacturing jobs.

Consumers Keep Calm and Shop On

Meanwhile, holiday shopping is in full swing. Some holiday merchandise is already subject to tariffs on Chinese imports, but the tariffs the United States plans to impose on December 15 will affect many more consumer products. If imposed, buyers and retailers will have to decide how much cost to pass on to their suppliers and consumers in the coming year.

For now, shoppers are keeping calm and shopping on with resilience. But as a last line of defense against slowing growth, their confidence can be fragile. Where the trade war is concerned, buyer beware.


Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.


U.S. Menswear Market – Rising Work Clothes Consumption Buoys Current Market Growth

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘U.S. Men’s And Boys’ Cut And Sew Apparel Market. Analysis And Forecast to 2025′. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The revenue of the menswear market in the U.S. amounted to $2.9B in 2018, jumping by 5.6% against the previous year. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which will be included in the final consumer price). The market value increased at an average annual rate of +1.5% over the period from 2013 to 2018; the trend pattern remained consistent, with only minor fluctuations being recorded over the period under review. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2018, when the market value increased by 5.6% against the previous year. In that year, the menswear market reached its peak level, and is likely to continue its growth in the immediate term.

Menswear Production in the U.S.

In value terms, menswear production totaled $1.7B in 2018. The total output value increased at an average annual rate of +1.7% from 2013 to 2018; the trend pattern remained consistent, with only minor fluctuations being observed in certain years. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2015, with an increase of 5.3% y-o-y.

Exports from the U.S.

In 2018, menswear exports from the U.S. totaled 39 tonnes, waning by -25.9% against the previous year. Overall, menswear exports continue to indicate a deep contraction. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2016, with an increase of 83% year-to-year. In that year, menswear exports reached their peak of 82 tonnes. From 2017 to 2018, the growth of menswear exports remained at a lower figure. In value terms, menswear exports totaled $416K (IndexBox estimates) in 2018. Over the period under review, menswear exports continue to indicate an abrupt drop. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2016, when exports increased by 110% y-o-y. In that year, menswear exports attained their peak of $1.1M. From 2017 to 2018, the growth of menswear exports failed to regain its momentum.

Exports by Country

Belgium (10 tonnes), New Zealand (5.8 tonnes) and Jamaica (4.3 tonnes) were the main destinations of menswear exports from the U.S., with a combined 52% share of total exports.

From 2013 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of exports, amongst the main countries of destination, was attained by Belgium (+1,931.7% per year), while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, Jamaica ($122K) emerged as the key foreign market for menswear exports from the U.S., comprising 29% of total menswear exports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by New Zealand ($44K), with a 11% share of total exports. It was followed by the UK, with a 9.1% share.

Export Prices by Country

The average menswear export price stood at $11 per kg in 2018, declining by -16.1% against the previous year. In general, the menswear export price continues to indicate a drastic deduction. Export prices varied noticeably by the country of destination; the country with the highest export price was Jamaica ($28 per kg), while the average price for exports to Belgium ($1 per kg) was amongst the lowest.

From 2013 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of export prices was recorded for supplies to New Zealand, while the export prices for the other major destinations experienced more modest paces of growth.

Imports into the U.S.

Menswear imports into the U.S. totaled 70K tonnes in 2018, surging by 9.6% against the previous year. In value terms, menswear imports amounted to $785M (IndexBox estimates) in 2018.

Imports by Country

In 2018, China (30K tonnes) constituted the largest supplier of menswear to the U.S., accounting for a 42% share of total imports. Moreover, menswear imports from China exceeded the figures recorded by the second largest supplier, Honduras (9.4K tonnes), threefold. Viet Nam (9.1K tonnes) ranked third in terms of total imports with a 13% share.

From 2013 to 2018, the average annual rate of growth in terms of volume from China totaled -2.2%. The remaining supplying countries recorded the following average annual rates of imports growth: Honduras (+6.2% per year) and Viet Nam (+9.8% per year).

In value terms, China ($285M) constituted the largest supplier of menswear to the U.S., comprising 36% of total menswear imports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Viet Nam ($136M), with a 17% share of total imports. It was followed by Honduras, with a 9.5% share.

Import Prices by Country

The average menswear import price stood at $11 per kg in 2018, remaining stable against the previous year. Over the period under review, the menswear import price, however, continues to indicate a mild curtailment. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2016, when the average import price increased by 0.4% y-o-y. Over the period under review, the average import prices for men’s and boys’ cut and sew apparel attained their peak figure at $12 per kg in 2013; however, from 2014 to 2018, import prices stood at a somewhat lower figure.

There were significant differences in the average import prices amongst the major supplying countries. In 2018, the country with the highest import price was Jordan ($23 per kg), while the price for Pakistan ($5.9 per kg) was amongst the lowest.

From 2013 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of import prices was attained by Cambodia, while the import prices for the other major suppliers experienced a decline.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform


What Buying Habits Tell Marketers About Each Generation

Each generation has unique experiences, lifestyles, and demographics that influence their buying behaviors, financial experts say. And studies show these distinguishing factors often lead to different spending habits between generations.
As a result, many companies are reaching out to consumers and trying to understand — and gain the attention of — these diverse buyers, says Gui Costin (, an entrepreneur, consultant and author of Millennials Are Not Aliens.
“This type of multi-generational marketing is the practice of appealing to the unique needs and behaviors of individuals within different generational groups,” says Costin. “In terms of finding and retaining buyers, companies cannot underestimate those generational differences.”
Costin discusses how the buying habits of different generations are influenced by environmental factors and how businesses must focus their marketing efforts accordingly:
Millennials. Now comprising the highest percentage of the workforce, this generation (born roughly from 1981 to 1995) receives considerable marketing attention. Many millennials grew up immersed in the digital world — a big difference from previous generations — and they think globally. “Attract this group early and earn its loyalty by appealing to their belief that they can make the future better,” Costin says. “Traditional mass marketing approaches do not work well with younger consumers. Be sure they know that your organization’s mission speaks to a purpose greater than the bottom line, e.g., globalization and climate change. Give them systematic feedback because they value positive reinforcement at accelerated rates and want more input.” 
Generation X. Following the baby boomers and preceding the millennials, their tastes are different from previous generations. “Because they have greater financial restraints, they often shop at value-oriented retailers,” Costin says. “On the other hand, they have a reputation of being incredibly disloyal to brands and companies. Generation Xers like initiatives that will make things more useful and practical. They demand trust to the extent that if your organization does not follow through once, then you are likely to lose them.”
Baby Boomers. This demographic group, with many now in retirement or nearing it, includes those born from 1946 to 1964. Health is a major concern, and change is not something they embrace. “They appreciate options and want quick fixes that require little change and instant improvement,” Costin says. “They do not like bureaucracy — but give them a cause to fight for and they will give their all. Focus on building value and they will be less price-sensitive. While this group may be aging, they’re focused on breaking the mold of what 60 and beyond looks like.” 
The Silent Generation. Born between 1925 and 1945, this group represents the oldest Americans and, Costin says, typically is labeled with traditional values such as discipline, self-denial, hard work, conformity, and financial conservatism. “It’s important to earn their trust,” says Costin, “as they believe that a person’s word is his or her bond. Patriotism, team-building, and sacrifice for the common good are appealing to this generation. As a group, they aren’t particularly interested in the information age; however, the younger members of this generation are one of the fastest-growing groups of internet users.”
“Communicating with customers in different generations can be challenging,” Costin says. “However, all generations appreciate honesty and authenticity. As environmental factors change, transparency and genuine interactions remain important to everyone.”

Gui Costin (, author of the No. 1 Bestseller Millennials Are Not Aliens, is an entrepreneur, and founder of Dakota, a company that sells and markets institutional investment strategies. Dakota is also the creator of two software products: Draft, a database that contains a highly curated group of qualified institutional investors; and Stage, a content platform built for institutional due diligence analysts where they can learn an in-depth amount about a variety of investment strategies without having to initially talk to someone. Dakota’s mission is to level the playing field for boutique investment managers so they can compete with bigger, more well-resourced investment firms.