The casual wear market in China is expected to grow 17 per cent a year in the next few years, a survey has found. The robust growth of the casual wear market is far higher than growth in the overall clothing market, expected to be 8 per cent. The study, by Sofres Consulting Asia Pacific, showed spending on clothing in urban China last year reached 160 billion yuan (about HK$148.84 billion), of which casual wear accounted for 65 billion yuan. The study estimated the casual wear market in urban China would reach 80 billion yuan this year, rising to 100 billion yuan next year and 125 billion yuan in 1998. Sofres managing director Hamish Watson said consumer patterns were shifting, people were starting to care about what they wore outside the work place. Sofres surveyed 931 people aged between 18 and 40 in nine cities and found that the market was dominated by a few major foreign brands. The cities surveyed were Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Qingdao, Shijiazhuan, Changchun, Wuhan and Nanjing. In terms of brand recognition, Jeanwest was most preferred by younger customers while Giordano was most recognised among more mature consumers. Mr Watson said the number of outlets set up by these chain stores was one of the reasons for their popularity. Jeanwest has 184 outlets, Appleshop 140, Giordano 92, Esprit 41 and Bossini 30. 'It is true that China has failed to develop its own brand [in casual wear],' Mr Watson said. He said 25 local and foreign brands were mentioned to the respondents, but only 1 per cent knew of the brands apart from a few major foreign ones.