BEIJING – As the Lunar Year of the Pig comes to an end, popular cartoon character Peppa Pig is set to be replaced by Mickey Mouse as the star attraction in Chinese markets, with people celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Rat on Saturday.
According to official media, the Disney character and his girlfriend Minnie might see their most successful year since the brand first arrived in China in the 1980s.
In Shanghai’s Disney theme park, the two mascots have been dressed in China’s traditional red and gold colors, while shelves were full of special merchandise and shops selling clothes, toys and stationary.
Foreign brands such as Disney and Peppa Pig creator Entertainment One have benefited from joining the New Year craze by marketing items related to traditional Chinese zodiac signs.
Li Wenqiang, who sells stuffed toys through the Huanle Buwawa (happy dolls) store on e-commerce platform Taobao, told EFE that they had sold around 100,000 pig-shaped products last year, while around 20,000 rat-related items have been sold so far.
And the trend has been picking up in the last few months.
“When the Chinese New Year approaches, business is better than any other time of the year. But as the Chinese economy is not doing well, business is getting worse every year,” he said.
Wendy, who sells women’s clothes, appeared upbeat as she told EFE that sales of clothes with rat imagery on them were 20 percent higher compared to the last two years, those of the pig and the dog.
She said the popularity of Mickey could be the reason behind this trend, adding that clothes with Chinese zodiac signs sold five times more than those without them.
Sales often vary according to which animal symbolizes the year, with horse and dragon products selling the most thanks to their cultural importance.
The Lunar New Year is traditionally a time of indulgence, with shops offering attractive discounts throughout the main shopping season.
At a Beijing mall, 35-year-old Wang Sian said he took advantage of the holidays to buy things he could not purchase during the rest of the year.
“The Chinese New Year is similar to Christmas in the West, a lot of ‘marketing’ takes place during this time. One has to bring in something new, a new spirit, to welcome the New Year,” he said.
University students Liu Huamin and Liu Bohan said the festival did not lose its meaning in the shopping frenzy, as it was also a time to be spent with family.
International brands have tried to capture their share of the pie and have found success. Last year, the promotional video for “Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year” was watched more than 20 million times, and the movie became a massive hit in the Asian country.
This year, Nike and Apple figure among the brands vying to capture the internet’s attention this festive season, launching audiovisual material linked to traditional symbols and stories to promote their products.
Nike managed to attract nearly 30 million views on a New Year video link posted on Chinese social network Weibo, while US tech giant Apple managed to reach more than 3.7 million Weibo users with an emotional story of a single mother who reunites with her mother during New Year.