On February 8, 2016 Chinese Canadians will celebrate their New Year’s holiday. The New Year’s holiday is the most important event within the Chinese community – it’s like Christmas and Thanksgiving combined. Here’s what you need to know about it and some idea starters on where your brand could fit in commercially.
How big is Canada’s Chinese community?
There are 1.6 million people in Canada of Chinese origin putting them a close second after our South Asian community (Stats. Can). That’s more than enough people to throw a good party.
In terms of spending the Chinese market in Canada is estimated to have purchasing power of over C$53 billion. That’s about half the size of Canada’s exports of oil and natural gas to the USA in 2014 (Industry Canada). And unlike our oil sector of late, the Chinese community’s spending power in Canada is growing.
How important is New Year’s in the Chinese community?
It’s a very big deal if you live in Hong Kong or mainland China which is where over 30,000 new immigrants to Canada come from each year.
To put the importance of the holiday into perspective, look at it this way. People in Hong Kong are very hard working. On average they work +35% more hours a year than your typical Canadian (OECD). But even hard working Hong Kong shuts down for three full days to celebrate the New Year holiday. Mainland China shuts down for seven days!
Canadians on the other hand only get two days officially to celebrate Christmas. And by the way, December 25, 2016 falls on a Sunday which counts as one of the official days off (you’re welcome).
The picture below sums up the relative importance of New Year in China vs Christmas in Canada in wattage terms.
How do Chinese Canadians celebrate the New Year holiday?
It tends to vary by age and how long someone has been living in Canada. The younger someone is and the longer they have been living Canada, the less likely the holiday is to be observed as “intensely”.
Generally speaking though just about everyone will get together with their family the week of February 7th to have special meals together to welcome in the New Year. It’s like December 31st but much more family oriented.
Commercially, purchasing traditions are different vs Christmas so do keep that in mind. The spending is still huge though – just pay attention to the balance between self and giving expenditures. People “reset” their own lives with personal purchases of clothes, electronics etc and then also give money to others in their family. The most important giving ritual are “Red Pockets”. These are the traditional red envelopes filled with money that married couples give to children and younger, unmarried, adult relatives. If you’re a Chinese-Canadian kid, Red Pockets are a welcome ritual that is still widely observed.
There are also quite a number of other traditions and rituals that to varying degrees, are observed.
For example, most people will give their house a thorough cleaning to sweep away all the ill-fortune there may have been in the family and free up space for good luck in the coming year.
It’s also a good time of year to be in the clothing business. Chinese people will traditionally buy and wear new clothes on February 8th to start the new year off.
Where do Canadian companies fit into Chinese New Year?
Lots of Canadians companies have already recognized the importance of reaching out to Canada’s Chinese community during their New Year holiday. The following is a quick run-down on a few strategies that we’ve seen being used.
Strategy 1. Create a product or service specifically for the Chinese community.
Canada Post has issued special stamps to welcome the Chinese New Year on many occasions. The Royal Canadian Mint has also marked Chinese New Year with a new series of coins in the past.
Other companies like McCormick’s, RBC and Knorr have also developed products to address Chinese-Canadian’s tastes and holiday traditions.
Strategy 2: Recognise the cultural significance of the holiday to the Chinese-Canadian community and wish them well. Coke and Pepsi are good examples of this approach.
Strategy 3: Put your products front and center to the community if you think that there is commerical appeal. Is your company Zara, Holt Renfrew or even a local clothing retailer? There are 1.6 million Chinese-Canadians out there looking for new outfits to wear on February 8th!
The chart below sums things up nicely. Chinese New Year is a very important holiday for the 1.6 million people of Chinese descent living here. 84% of them make special shopping trips to get ready for the holiday. Almost half of them will take the day off.
Companies in Canada have started to recognize the importance of the holiday and are catering messaging and products to the Chinese community. ?Understandably, most of them appreciate it.