Saturday, June 10, 2006

This is life 8: Great Shopping in Great China

Busy streets of Hangzhou of day and night.

Shopping in China is quite an experience. The malls feature many brandnames that can be found in Singapore and even more brandnames that does not exist in Singapore. And they are not necessary China brands but also include European or American brands.

Shopping in China is not only an experience but an expensive one. The government seems to be earning much from these taxes. For example, an Espirit t-shirt can cost easily over 250RMB (S$50), while in Singapore at perhaps 4/5 of that price. Nautical shirts at twice the price of Singapore. Even the unfamiliar brands from China, can really be costly; cost of 500RMB for a shirt is a real common sight in the shopping malls. Of course, one is able to find real cheap and of lower quality clothing here in China, and there would be crowds gathering around the shop. Buying the middle range of design or brands not found in Singapore, is likely to be a good shopping strategy for most Singaporeans.

Singaporeans must all be impressed by the wide selection of clothing, accessories, bags in these Chinese shops and malls. All these, although largely made in China, willl be able to make a fashion statement in Singapore streets and usually are of good quality. Orchard Road, Singapore somehow pales in comparison with all these massive arrays of shops and choices of goods. Even imported food from Europe, Japan or Korea, can provide a gastronomical adventure for Singaporeans. Singapore, being a shopping haven, as claimed by the Singapore Tourism Board is attempting to delude Singaporean minds.

Perhaps Singapore can be a better choice for shopping is because they offer competitive prices; luxury goods in Singapore are comparatively cheaper. Luxury watches in Singapore, for example, cost around 40% less than in China. Nevertheless, fashion fanatics can consider China, whether Hangzhou or Shanghai, for a fashion pilgrimage. Heeren or Bugis, with their hip and fashionable appeal, shall no longer seen as hot or fashionable after visits to some of these trendy Chinese shops. This can very much explain the fashion sense of many local urban Chinese who can certainly dress better than the average person in Singapore streets. The long pants with slippers combination is perhaps more evidently found in Singapore than in mainland China.

Service in China varies widely. Many salesgirls will welcome their customers into the shops but others will try forcing customers into buying their products or that some show much poor attitude. One great idea, Singapore malls should adopt, is emulating this mall in Hangzhou, by providing slippers in the changing room.

Another wonderful service these Chinese shops and malls provide is a clear indication of the origin of the goods. Whether the durian from Thailand or fruit jam from Austria or the shirt from Shanghai, are all clearly indicated, along with the respective pricing. Even if it is locally produced, they provide details of the province or city from which the goods are produced. This clearly shows that these people are knowledgeable of their products and certainly have a sense of respect and pride in what they are selling. So does Singapore provide better service than mainland China? Not necessary true.

The exciting walk along Nanjing Pedestrain Walk, with so much to see, so much to buy and with so many people. It seems like Hongkong or Bangkok or even Singapore are losing their appeal to this rising fashion capital of Asia.

The same Nanjing Pedestrian Walk by the cool night, provides another exciting journey on the same street. This street totally screams ''Consumerism rules, capitalism triumphs''.


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