Income Elasticity of China

economics

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In China, nothing says upwardly mobile' like a $6,000

toilet

The nation housing boom has unleashed demand for fancy plumbing. Buyers are

trading low-tech latrines for cutting-edge commodes loaded with features.

October 01, 2010|By David Pierson, Los Angeles Times


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Reporting from Beijing — Like Goldilocks searching for the perfect perch, Dong Yu tested one

seat after another in the glitzy showroom. Some were too pricey, others too fussy. Then he found

one that was just right.

" You have got to try this," he shouted to his wife, to the delight of a fawning saleswoman. " This

one  really comfortable."

The seat in question was a $400 toilet made by Japan-based Toto Ltd. Dong and his wife had

just bought a 2,200-square-foot apartment in a tony section of China's capital and were prepared

to splurge on a pair of eye-catching commodes. This model, with its slim tank and ultra-quiet

flush was exactly what the couple was looking for.

" Today, Chinese people like to focus on the kitchen and the bathroom in their new apartments,"

said Dong, 37. " It's a big difference from when I was a kid. We had to share public bathrooms,

which only had squat toilets."


China's housing boom has unleashed a bull market infancy plumbing. No longer content with

low-tech latrines, upwardly mobile Chinese are snapping up cutting-edge toilets loaded with high-

efficiency flushing systems, heated seats, and built-in bidets.

The surge underscores the desire of millions of Chinese to enjoy a better standard of living. And

it has been a bonanza for plumbing manufacturers, which are vying for a piece of the world's

largest loo market. Nearly 19 million toilets are sold in China annually, about double the number

sold in the U.S., said Victor Post, vice president of BRG Consult, a global building products

consultancy.

" China is the most competitive market in the world," said Larry Yuen, president of Kohler Asia,

which has 11 factories in China. " There are brands from Japan, Europe, and America all fighting

for market share."

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