Chinese New Year 2021: Three Retail Trends to Lookout For

Sufiana Sharuddin
Sufiana Sharuddin
August 13, 2021
Chinese New Year 2021: Three Retail Trends to Lookout For

With Christmas in the rear-view mirror, the next major retail event geared up is Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year. Falling on 12 February, the year of the rat will give way to the next zodiac cycle and usher in the year of the metal Ox in 2021. The Lunar New Year also marks the beginning of Spring which symbolises a time of change and new beginnings.

Associated with strength, cultivation and earnestness, the year of the Ox might be exactly what the retail industry needs after a tough and gruelling 2020. The Lunar New Year is not only a major celebration in China but is celebrated by various cultures throughout Eastern and Southeast Asia.

As a tradition, wearing new clothes is an auspicious way to ring in the new year. Local brands and retailers in the region are expected to have special sales and themed-collections starting January, while international brands will also be participating by releasing limited capsules exclusive to Asia.

Here are the three retail trends for Chinese New Year 2021:

1. A Traditional Resurgence

While contemporary iterations of Chinese fashion has been consumers’ go-to for years, a resurgence of the Qipao and Hanfu has gathered a strong following among Chinese Gen Zs.

Chinese teens donning the Hanfu - Chinese New Year 2021
Chinese teens donning the Hanfu. Image credit:

The resurgence of the Hanfu, in particular, stems from a desire to reconnect with traditional roots as the outfit was once banned in China. Popular period or historical television shows have also helped to usher the Hanfu into the mainstream, cementing its popularity with the Chinese youth. Although not occasion specific, these traditional outfits come into the spotlight especially during celebratory events such as Chinese New Year. 

A chart of new-in vs first discount for the Qipao (Cheongsam) subcategory. Source: Omnilytics dashboard
A chart of new-in vs first discount for the Qipao (Cheongsam) subcategory - Chinese New Year 2021

In the lead up to the festivities in February, Chinese New Year-themed collections are typically launched three to four months in advance. Omnilytics detected a massive jump in Qipao new-ins in November and December at online marketplaces such as Zalora, Lazada, Shopee and more. The number of discounted SKUs for the style also increased in tandem due to year end and 12.12 sales.

Top patterns, colours and materials for the Qipao (Cheongsam) subcategory. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

Red and floral motifs are typically associated with the celebration, however, the analysis showed pink and blue Qipaos are gaining in popularity. Outside of florals, checks and polka dots were among the key patterns seen in this year’s collections. 

2. Zodiac-themed Products

As Asia becomes an increasingly important market for the fashion industry, international brands have also acknowledged Chinese New Year’s significance in the retail calendar. Hugo Boss, Tory Burch and Coach have already released their limited capsules featuring Ox-themed products back in October, as detected by Omnilytics data.

Left: Coach’s Perry Rose Gold-Tone watch. Right: Tory Burch Ozzie the Ox Leather Zip Card Case. Source: Omnilytics dashboard
Ox-themed products from Coach and Tory Burch - Chinese New Year 2021

The Chinese New Year period is also an exciting time for sneaker releases due to the mass streetwear following in China. Nike will be releasing the ‘CNY’ SB Dunk in early 2021, Jordan brand is also releasing a special CNY colourway of the Jordan 1 low. Adidas will be doing the same for its Ultra Boost range, while Vans took a more unconventional approach for its bovine-themed collaboration with Japanese retailer, BILLYS.

BILLYS x Vans V36OG silhouette ‘Brown Remix’. Image credit:
BILLYS x Vans V36OG silhouette 'Brown Remix' - Chinese New Year 2021

Expect to see more of the Ox on products as the festival approaches in February. In the past, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and more have released special Chinese New Year collections in the lead up to the festivities.

Also read: How do I Identify and Validate Uptrends?

3. Livestream Shopping Spree

During the height of the pandemic, store closures meant many brands had to get creative to connect with shoppers. Live streaming, an already rising marketing tactic in region, became the most effective method in amplifying the online shopping experience. With the pandemic still a factor in this year’s celebration, it is likely to be a ‘must-have’ in rolling out this year’s Chinese New Year campaigns.

If you are not already utilising live stream platforms, this Chinese New Year season is definitely prime time to try it. Earlier in the year, the number of businesses adopting the tool on Taobao’s platform jumped by 700%, the company reports.

Live streaming has been such an integral part of Singles’ Day success that it has even coined a new term called ‘shoppertainment’ which combines commerce and entertainment. These live streams are often formatted with a host introducing the products. Viewers tuning in can interact with the host directly via a live chat feature and even complete an entire purchase within the chat alone.

Although relatively new in Southeast Asia, live streaming is quickly becoming the norm. Pomelo, a popular SEA-based fashion retail platform introduced a live streaming feature on its app in February, where it regularly features shows promoting the brand’s latest products.

What to Expect for Chinese New Year 2021?

With the pandemic still looming over our heads, this year’s celebrations might be more modest than before. However, if the trajectory from Singles’ Day continues, brands and retailers should still anticipate strong demand for Chinese New Year next year, especially online.

Fashion consumption has rapidly recovered in Asia compared to other regions but the numbers are pale in comparison to pre-Covid levels. Getting the right merchandise will be key in capturing the market – all analysis from previous retail events this year have indicated that consumers are willing to spend for the right product.

Brands and retailers will also need to be cautious and culturally-aware to avoid any mishaps during next year’s festivities and connect with consumers authentically.

About the Author

Sufiana Sharuddin
Sufiana Sharuddin
Sufiana Sharuddin is a published fashion writer, honing her interest in the industry during her time at Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design. She currently covers a variety of topics within the industry including business, technology, trends and current affairs.