Why the U.S. is no Longer the Comsumer King
Here in Suzhou, China, we went to the Chinese store Auchan (actually a French store) on Friday night to pick up some things. This was the third time we have gone there. It is similar to WalMart…in many ways, but it takes consuming to a new level. It is similar in size to a Super WalMart, has groceries and household, clothes etc. This store has 110 check-outs, which were not all in use, at the time we were there, only about 105 were! People were busily pushing shopping carts around looking at, picking up and getting any and all sorts of goods. The prices were comparable, maybe even cheaper that the US. Produce like fruits and vegetables were definitely cheaper. Items that were very popular…a huge crowd was waiting in line for cooked whole chickens which were being cooked not in the usual U.S supermarket rotisserie but a giant rotisserie that held about 100 or more chickens at a time. The fish section was a whole aisle with multiple tanks housing everything from catfish, turtles, to sting ray. The meats, chicken, beef, and pork, went the whole length of the grocery store. If you want you can buy an electric motor scooter (most bikes and scooters here are electric), and ride it down the flat escalator to the lower level, you can. When you take your shopping cart on the escalator the cart wheels lock until you reach the bottom. One of the people we work with said he was in this store on a Saturday afternoon, and all the registers were in use with lines 10 people deep, he was trying to estimate how many people were in the store, and he came up with around 10,000!
The Chinese have money and are anxious to spend it! Given how many Chinese there are, there is no way the US can hope to compete!
Granted we do know that Suzhou is not the true China, but it is the direction that China is headed, Almost every Chinese person here has a cell-phone and knows how to use it. Everything here is new and clean. Chinese people are all wanting to own cars. For most people, electric bikes and scooters are their main transportation, but they see cars in their future. This is the next market for the car makers.
The Chinese middle class in growing…some estimates put it at 400 million, about a third of the population. These sheer numbers make the US middle class pale in comparison.