Survey finds international brands a big hit with upwardly mobile middle class in Myanmar

THE expanding middle-income bracket in Myanmar’s three major cities, Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, means there is great potential for international brands, a new survey has found.

The study by US-based Environsell Thailand, which aims to forecast consumer trends in 2015, has found that the number of middle-income earners in the country is growing and they are more open and eager to try new things.

This change in consumer behaviour created huge opportunities for business operators, it found.

The survey was conducted last year with a sample size of 1,000 in the three key cities.

The research and consulting firm’s previous consumer-insights survey in Myanmar was in 2012.

Its managing director, Sariporn Jiwanun, said yesterday that after the country opened up for overseas investment, the domestic economy has become more vibrant and more jobs have been generated, particularly those related to English-language speakers.

The unemployment rate in Myanmar was rather low, especially in Yangon, she said.

“The [highest] concentration of white collars is in Yangon and they are significantly driving the change thanks to their growing incomes,” she said.

Sariporn said the average income for a middle-management employee had increased from B10,000 a month in 2012 to between Bt20,000 and Bt30,000 a month. Grassroots consumers were also enjoying economic benefits.

Given these factors, consumers in the three cities were more open for new things and were keen to embrace new products and a new lifestyle, with them gradually shifting from traditional to modern products.

Products such as liquid soap, floor cleaner and fabric conditioner were becoming more popular.

“They are also willing to pay more for the products that make them more satisfied and make their lives more convenient,” said Sariporn.

The media influence also encouraged consumers to be more cosmopolitan, she said, adding that TV commercials remained the most influential media in terms of consumer spending habits followed by billboards and cutouts.

She said males and females in the three cities were more concerned about their appearance.

Along with using thanaka powder, considered a beauty secret, young consumers were also looking for skincare, personal care and beauty products like hair conditioner, facial cleanser, moisturising lotion and sun protection.

Sariporn said the use of smart phones was another factor driving a change in consumer behaviour.

Environsell projects that the usage rate for mobiles will rise from 72 per cent in 2013 to 97 per cent this year as a result of a decrease in prices for mobile packages and devices. Sariporn said the telecom sector had expanded rapidly following its liberation and included new foreign entries, such as Telenor (Norway) and Ooredoo (Qatar).

There were 2.6 million mobile users in 2014, with between 70,000 and 80,000 new users per month – most using a smart phones, the survey found.

As such, consumers had become more tech savvy and were becoming addicted to the Internet and social media, Sariporn said.

She said new-generation consumers were shopping and hanging out with friends in coffee shops more, as well as attending more concerts, trade fairs and marketing events.

There was a huge opportunity for new brands to be launched in the three cities and for retailers to offer a greater variety of lifestyle products.

Regarding luxury goods, Sariporn said companies found it difficult to penetrate the market because high-end consumers preferred to buy luxury items overseas.


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