There is a wide range of shopping options in Beijing. Shopping can be an expensive hobby or a fun and cheap one depending on where you shop. There is a gamut of lavish malls selling luxury brands in Beijing, but there are also markets where haggling is the norm and where you can come away with great finds at bargain prices. Beijingers are also starting to see unique boutiques as part of the shopping scene.
However, many expats complain that they often cannot find the right clothing and shoe sizes. Sizes often run small to accommodate the local population, especially at the shopping markets. Department stores and malls will have better selections and lots of foreign brands available, but larger sizes are not as well stocked.
There aren’t as many sales and promotions at stores in Beijing, so prices for goods at department stores and foreign chains (like H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, Nike, Esprit, etc.) will likely run higher here than at home. Many expats save their big shopping trips for home, when they can take advantage of holiday sales, coupons, promotions, clearances, and discount stores.
However, it is still fun to walk the malls and department stores in Beijing, if only to window shop and occasionally splurge, or even hit upon a sale at a familiar store. The malls are multi-floor, modern structures and often include lots of cafes and restaurants where you can meet up with friends and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Market shopping, though, can be a challenge for those with little patience. At the most touristy markets, stall vendors will be aggressive and try to push products on you. There are plenty of fakes at these markets, as well, so don’t believe everything you hear. There are less touristy shopping markets where you can find genuine items and branded clothing for a fraction of the price. Buyers should always be aware that the quality of goods at market stalls may not always be the best. Boutiques are often mixed into some shopping complexes or smaller shopping centers, and have gained popularity as young and fashionable entrepreneurs in Beijing try their hand at retail.
Department store and mall hours are usually from 9:30am-10PM. Market stall shopping starts earlier and closes earlier, usually following a “dawn till dusk” schedule of 8am-5pm. Boutiques usually follow the schedules of the larger malls.