Despite initiatives introduced to stimulate the number of births in several markets in Asia, the trend of declining birth rates is predicted to continue during the coming years. Consequently, children are today increasingly being ‘spoiled’ by parents, grandparents, and others.
The sales of children’s wear have increased annually between 2015-2019, reaching BUSD 45 in total across China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea in 2019. Sales are projected to continue to grow in the coming years, following a small downturn in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A similar trend can also be seen in the traditional toys and game segment* where total sales reached BUSD 19.4 in 2020, growing annually by 2.5 per cent from BUSD 17.2 in 2015.
There is also a shift in consumer behavior, with primarily four trends contributing:
- Sustainability and safety for children.
- Design in focus.
- Educational children’s products to boost learning and development.
- Online expansion though brick-and-mortar stores remain important.
Sustainability and safety for children
Not only are parents spending more on each child, but they also care more about the type and the quality of the products they purchase.
Many consumers are willing to pay a premium for good quality products and for safe brands for their children, often being less price sensitive than when purchasing for themselves. Sustainable clothing, which use organic fabrics and materials appropriate for the sensitive skin of small children have therefore become increasingly high in demand in recent years.
Due to these higher requirements on quality and safety, the ingredients used in children’s products have become an important factor for parents when making purchasing decisions. Safety certificates is another factor that has gained in importance in recent years. For example, parents in South Korea are increasingly looking beyond CE-certificates for other certificates that highlight a product’s sustainability and/or safety.
In Hong Kong, the baby and child-specific product segment is projected a six per cent annual growth between 2020 and 2025. Consumers have a strong preference for foreign brands, as they are perceived to be of particularly high quality and come with higher safety standards. A similar trend can be observed in the Taiwanese market where the premium baby and children products market is expected to grow from 30 per cent in 2020 to 35 per cent in 2025. The average spending on baby and child products in general is predicted to continue to rise in Taiwan by two per cent due to a wealthier population.
Design in focus
Children’s clothing is typically colourful and fun. But in several markets, there has been a shift towards more toned-down colours and an increased focus on design in clothes for children.
In recent years, the concept of “adultation” or “mini-me” has become increasingly popular among younger parents in China and Singapore. This means that parents are looking to mimic their own style for their children, creating smaller versions of themselves that are often shared on social media. Many foreign and domestic brands have already adapted to this trend and embraced the concept - from fast fashion to luxury brands.
Educational children’s products to boost learning and development
With high competition for spots in schools, and with a preferred school plan often in place from a young age, many parents are looking to give their children a boost in education through extracurricular activities or games. Consequently, the edtech sector has seen a boom across several markets. However, in some markets, the sector’s progress has been cut short. To illustrate, in 2021 China banned after-school tutoring for school curriculum subjects during weekends and holidays to reduce the pressure on children.
Education and edtech aside, toys and games that provide creative and/or educational benefits have become increasingly popular to boost the development of children. Growing expectations on the added value of toys and games can be seen on parents’ purchasing habits in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan.
Online expansion, but brick-and-mortar stores remain important
Online channels have become increasingly important for customers when shopping for children, both for purchases and information gathering – a trend that was further strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That said, traditional offline channels should not be forgotten. While e-commerce is becoming a more prominent procurement channel for the retail sector across the Japanese, South Korean, Chinese, Singaporean, Hong Kong and Taiwanese markets in Asia, traditional retail stores remain important purchasing channels.
In 2020, more than 60 per cent of sales from traditional toys and games came through offline channels; especially geographically smaller markets, such as Singapore and Hong Kong saw a large share of traditional toys and games sold offline in 2019 (92 and 83 per cent, respectively).
Examples of popular offline stores are:
- In Singapore, the biggest physical retail channels are Fairprice and Dairy Farm where a lot of child and family-oriented products can be found. For children’s wear, Le Petit Society is a popular destination.
- In Taiwan, a large selection of children products can be found in SOGO department stores.
- In South Korea, Shinsegae is the largest retailer of clothes and accessories for children.
Future outlook and business opportunities for Swedish companies
Following a demographic shift in APAC markets, with declining birth rates and fewer children per family, consumer behaviours are changing. Parents today show an increasing interest in the design and material choices (sustainable and organic) when purchasing children’s clothes and educational toys and games.
This should offer plenty of opportunities for Swedish consumer brands targeting children and families, especially those utilising the Swedish image – which in APAC markets is often associated with for example nature, clean air, and organic and sustainable production.
To make a successful market entry, Swedish companies need to identify the market that best fits their offering, understand the latest developments and trends, and analyse how to best navigate the different existing channels.
Please contact one of Business Sweden’s offices to start a dialogue about the markets and how we can assist your company in a potential expansion in the region.
Linda Bradley, Hong Kong & Asia.
Johan Thurée, Mainland China.
Mattias Dec, Taiwan.
*Excluding video games