”He-conomy” vs ”She-conomy”: it’s time for men to drive China’s consumption


Women have always embodied the ideal consumer. But an emerging increase in China’s male consumption recently created a brand-new ”he-conomy” opening windows of opportunities for brands and the industry


In many people’s minds, female consumption is traditionally larger than male consumption. Therefore, while shopping, it is easy to notice that stores and sectors addressed to women usually outnumber those for men.

Nevertheless, in recent years what was considered girls’ favorite hobby seems to have experienced a complete change towards new male consumers.

Opposed to the traditionally predominant ”she-conomy她经济, the emerging ”he-conomy他经济 – male consumer consumption – is recently rising opening new windows of opportunity for brands and the industry.

Until now, the ”she-conomy” has always represented the largest market share. Women are usually more impulsive if compared to men whose thinking is considered to be more logic, rational and concentrated. For this reason, women have always embodied the ideal consumer.


he-conomy vs she-conomy - shopping mall behavior - cifnews

© Huxiu. The behavior of women (red line) in a shopping mall is more impulsive and less concentrated compared to that of men (blue line).


Therefore, while brands concentrated on female buyers, the ”he-conomy” has been often underestimated.

The expansion of the middle class and the development of online consumer finance are some of the important factors that led to the rise of the ”he-conomy”. The increase in male consumption is thus the inevitable result of long-term changes in the social structure and habits of life.

For what concerns online purchases, the average annual spending for men has been discovered to be higher than the average spending for women. In fact, according to QuestMobile data, the men’s monthly use of mobile shopping apps is increasing. In April 2018, it increased by 36% compared to May 2016.

But, who are these emerging male consumers? New male purchasers seem to pay more attention to products’ quality and to brands’ loyalty. They are not interested in the value of objects but they rather buy the added value of the product in order to pursue a better life quality.


According to QuestMobile data, over 90% of men pay more attention to the product’s features and are willing to pay more for the quality.


Therefore, even if they might buy fewer products compared to women, new Chinese male consumers often choose more expensive products becoming the backbone of high-end sales.

The driving forces behind the growth of the ”he-conomy” are the rise of a male population with strong economic power, the increasing number of single men in China, and the awakening of male consumption’s awareness.

For what concerns the growth of a male population with strong economic power, the percentage of men over 40 years old in China is increasing. Men who enter this phase have accumulated wealth and social status, and their consumption power is much higher than those of other age groups.


he-conomy vs she-conomy - shopping frenzy - cifnews

© Pixabay. When the shopping frenzy is no longer exclusive to the Women’s Army, brands may consider pursuing the ”he-conomy”.


In addition, according to iResearch studies, in 2017, men represented the 63,4% of people with high-income in China while women only represented the 36,6%. Among these men, the number of singles is also higher than the number of single women.

The difference between the consumption of singles and the consumption of families is also significant. Since there is no family burden, the saving trend of single men is much lower than that of non-single people, therefore, the tendency to consume is higher.

Lastly, thanks to the quick development of economy and society, men started to pursue better careers becoming more and more aware of the importance of their personal image.

Today, Chinese men are paying more attention to their professional and formal looks, as well as their casual daily wardrobes that became part and parcel of their workplace and career. The result is the increase in the sales of skin products, high-end clothes, and luxuries in order to receive a higher external acceptance.


he-conomy vs she-conomy - male consumption - cifnews

© Unsplash. Taobao released a report summarizing male consumers’ purchases on the retail platform that revealed men’s growing interest in fashion and beauty.


Nowadays, Chinese men tend to follow modern trends as the increase of streetwear’s sales after the rise in popularity of hip-hop music in China demonstrates. Moreover, some traditional notions associated with luxury consumption, such as status and power, have now been replaced by experience, but above all by self-expression.

However, other than simply putting more thought into their look, they have also become more aware of overall fitness. Working out is now a part of their daily lifestyle as well as the awareness of nutrition in their quest to look and feel better.

Moreover, the major growth factor of the ”he-conomy” is definitely represented by the increasing consumption of some traditionally feminine products such as cosmetics by Chinese men who now spend an average of 24 minutes on daily grooming routines.


The male beauty industry is exploding in China. It is expected to raise over $ 166 billion by 2022.


Sales of male beauty products increased by 140% over the past year including male makeup, whose top three most popular products are the foundation, eyeliner, and concealer.

Along with the quest for a professional look, the increase in male beauty and health products sales is also due to the post-’90s men’s pressure of work and education. For example, in 2018, sales of hair restorer and anti-hair loss products on Taobao doubled from the previous year, and the majority of those consumers were millennials.

Therefore, the Chinese male stereotype and the concept of masculinity has also radically changed. If in Chinese filmography masculine men were once depicted as physically tough and fiercely patriotic heroes, nowadays, serial dramas prefer to show androgynously good-looking successful professionals.


he-conomy vs she-conomy - hua chenyu - estée lauder - cifnews

© Weibo. Estée Lauder’s brand ambassador Hua Chenyu. Unlike many other popular ”little fresh meat” whose fans are predominately female, Hua’s fans are almost all male.


A new trend of good-looking men as desirable partners has thus risen resulting in the ”little fresh meat小 鲜肉 phenomenon – Chinese young and good-looking male celebrities.

Brands took the opportunity of the rising popularity of this new male stereotype and are using ”little fresh meat” celebrities to boost their campaigns and sales in the country such as L’Occitane that chose the Chinese young singer Joker Xue 薛之谦 as their brand ambassador.

China’s ”he-conomy” is thus composed of men between the age of 25 and 40 years old whose monthly household income ranges from US$ 2,300 to US$ 5,000. Compared to previous generations, these consumers are much more westernized and tech-savvy while their approach to luxury consumption has been refined and enhanced constantly through their daily interaction with luxury brands and retailers.

This new generation of Chinese men has now chosen to treat themselves better by taking care of their look and health as well as their free time.

By 2020, the size of this class is expected to account for 51% of China’s total male population. The ”he-conomy” definitely cannot be ignored by brands anymore.


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