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The millennial dress code: Understanding Chinese apparel shopping behaviour's & attitudes

Chinese millennials have become “super consumers” – one of the most promising consumer groups and targets of many brands. Their upbringing, values, attitudes and lifestyles will have a significant impact on their expectation towards brands in their shopping journey. Understanding their preferences and mindset, as well as their purchasing behaviour is of paramount importance for businesses. The below article and its data was found by conducting a comprehensive survey of a suitable test group.



The graph shows that the main influences on purchases are; the change of the seasons inspiring new additions to the wardrobe and impulse buying. Impulse buying is especially popular among females.


Females, find it easier to impulse buy. They will go into any stores that look attractive to them, especially stores that offerd:

  • Seasonal sale/ promotions

  • Great window display that shows the latest collection and stylish design

  • Eye-catching sales signs

  • Interior design with a theme or special lighting

  • New arrivals, especially for the brands they prefer 


Which channels millennials use to receive information on latest fashion trends and styling tips :

The graph clearly shows the heavy reliance on WeChat and Weibo as the fashion gurus. To further prove this to be the case, almost all photos found within this article were originally sourced from the two social media giants.

FUN FACT : Over 82% of Chinese millennials use apparel brands’ app to either check new clothing items, buy clothes or check for latest promotions 

Side note: More younger millennials (23.0%, vs. mature millennials, 10.7%) have never downloaded any mobile app of apparel brands.



Good quality reigns supreme as the top reason to buy, followed closely by the ability for the garment to actually fit. Style ranks third and value for money is the fourth. Advertising and sales are less important factors. Influencers coming last on the list. With the rapid growth in technology it should be expected to see changes soon.


As shown below over a three-month period, Chinese millennials spend the most on casual wear, followed by sportswear, and formal attire

Distribution of total expenditure on different clothing categories in past three months (Females vs. Males) 




Females like to buy clothes from fast fashion and trending brands, while males prefer sports brands. The below graph shows this clearly. It also shows that luxury brands make up less than 20% of sales.


Majority of Chinese millennials buy clothes at least once every two to three weeks; and over 10% of female millennials will do their shopping at least once a week.


The findings were about two-thirds of Chinese millennials shop at both offline and online channels; but offline is still the preferred channel when it comes to buying clothes.

Highlights from focus groups


  • Can see the colour, touch the fabric directly

  • Can try on and purchase on the spot

  • Can pick up the clothes immediately

  • No need to worry about fake products, especially for luxury brands

  • Enjoy the in-store service and experience, e.g. free drinks, sofa, etc.

  • Enjoy the sense of satisfaction and achievement when shopping in-store

  • Items they buy mostly in physical stores: winter clothes such as

  • jackets, and clothes for important occasions.


  • Time-saving (especially for working people)

  • Convenient (return and exchange policy)

  • Various brands and full range of products, size, colour, design, etc.

  • Frequent promotions especially during shopping festivals (e.g. 11.11 Shopping Festival)

  • Ease the pressure from sales associate; no hard sell from retailers

  • Enjoy the pleasure of unpacking the parcels (feel like opening gifts) 

The majority of Chinese millennials are satisfied with both their online and offline shopping experience :

Shopping malls is the number one shopping channels for Chinese millennials, followed by apparel brands’ online flagship stores and department stores:


In this section the four top preforming apparel brands of China are put under the microscope.

UNIQLO is the strong number 1 apparel brand, followed by H&M, Meters/bonwe, ZARA and then The GAP.


Majority of Chinese millennials think that new retail technologies will enhance their overall shopping experience and purchase intentions 

The study group was presented with four technology concepts adopted by apparel brands and retailers in China and other countries during the focus group discussions. The concepts were: 

  1. 3D body scanning with AI technology : This technology can assist with helping to find the perfect fit and knowing what will look good on different body shapes.

  2. Guided shopping experience with Virtual Reality (VR) technology : This takes shopping to a whole new level online, creating a real feeling shopping experience.

  3.  Shopping at an unmanned store: The freedom of shoppers only with virtual and robotic assistance

  4. Virtual mirror for trying on clothing : The mirror allows for shoppers to see what the items will look like on them by blending the person and the projection of the product on the screen. This technology borrows from the artificial scanning intelligence.


Overall speaking, Chinese millennials think in-store technological elements will contribute to building a better brand image; yet sales associates are still essential in creating a good in-store shopping experience

  • Respondents did not have strong reactions (either positive or negative) towards the concepts. That said, they expressed that brands and retailers that adopt advance technology in-store give them a young, professional, trendy, creative and caring image; and this is more relevant to sportswear brands.

  • Some respondents commented that sales associates are more important than technology in contributing to a good in-store shopping experience when shopping for clothes. In-store technological elements can enrich the overall shopping experience to a certain extent and they are particularly useful for checking size and colour availability, providing styling recommendation and settling payment. 

  1. Casual, simplistic, sporty, Korean style, and smart casual are the top five dressing styles preferred by Chinese millennials.

  2. Chinese millennials are motivated to add new items, purchase for the new season and replace other items.

  3. Impulse purchases are the norm for females; males like to plan their purchases.

  4. WeChat and Weibo are the most popular channels to receive latest fashion information.

  5. Chinese millennials give priority to quality, style and design over price.

  6. About two-thirds of Chinese millennials shop at both offline and online channels; but offline channel is still preferred when it comes to buying clothes.

  7. Multi-faceted shopping malls is the most popular channel among all.

  8. Chinese millennials spend the most on casual wear, sportswear and formal attire.

  9. Females spend the most on fast fashion brands over a 3-month period while males spend the most on sports brands; many buy clothes at least once every two to three weeks.

  10. 10. Chinese millennials greatly value brand attributes of good reputation, trustworthiness and service professionalism.

11. Uniqlo is the strong number one apparel brand in Chinese millennials’ mind, followed by H&M, Meters/Bonwe, Zara and Gap.

12. Most Chinese millennials think that new retail technologies will enhance their overall shopping experience and purchase intentions, but will not replace the need for effective in-store sales associates. 

Thank you for reading.

Information was originally sourced by Fung Business intelligence and has now been re-imagined by Jetek China Digital.


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