Many people come to Shanghai expressly for the shopping. You can find trend-setting new designers, you can find bargains if you are up for negotiations “Chinese-style”, and you can also have clothes custom-made for a fraction of what it costs in America, Europe or Japan. Shopping in Shanghai is friendly, convenient, and you will have thousands of stores from which to choose. Part of Shanghai’s appeal lies in its extensively vibrant shopping environment. Whether you’re looking for local novelty items or international brand names, you can be sure to find a very wide range of choices in Shanghai.
Stores in Shanghai offer shoppers a huge variety of styles, but the styles are the trendy ones sought after by buyers looking for the latest fashions. The women in Shanghai are far more fashion-conscious than almost any city in America or Europe. Even in China, Shanghai has a higher regard for trendiness than Beijing or even Hong Kong. Expats will finds stores with the latest European fashions, the street hip styles of urban America, and a myriad of new Chinese designers who are creating unique styles that look great. Shanghai is the place to shop for clothes.
The city offers the standard mega shopping malls, some with 500 stores; you will find famous streets, like Nanjing Road, that offer something for everyone; and, of course, you will always find the flea markets which are pure heaven if you enjoy crowds and bargaining. The museum stores are also good – the Shanghai Museum is a must stop for serious shoppers. Most hotels have shops; prices in hotel gift shops are always higher than elsewhere, but you don’t have to deal with crazy salespeople or bargaining techniques.
Imported items are never cheap in China because the government imposes high import duties on any product from other countries – this has given birth to the infamous counterfeit goods market (it is possible to walk 2 city blocks and be asked 14 times if you’d like to buy a “Rolex” watch!). Although you can find any brand in Shanghai, the smart shoppers go to Hong Kong to buy the famous foreign labels.
However, more and more expats are finding that the new Chinese designers are producing incredibly smart pieces at a fraction of the prices in Europe and Japan. These chic Chinese labels may just become the stars of tomorrow outside of China.
Expats will find that most stores do not stock shoe and clothing sizes that most Westerners consider normal sizes – certainly not too big. The normal size range for women’s clothes is 2-4. Similarly, you will be lucky to find women’s shoes larger than 7 or men’s shoes larger than 9. Of course, Shanghai has larger sizes – however, you must search for them and you will pay a premium.
Almost all stores in Shanghai are open from 9 am until 9 pm every day. The shopping centers and many stores in the expat living areas will remain open until 10 pm.
Bargaining in Shanghai
Enjoy the bargaining – it is a skill that becomes better with practice. Your shopping experience in China will be quite memorable if you throw yourself into the all-out, excessive bargaining. After buying something for 20% of the asking price, you will be absolutely giddy about the purchasing process instead of thinking about what you bought! Here are some tips:
- Be polite and friendly, and don’t criticize the merchandise or the vendors.
- Don’t let them know that you are too interested. You will become used to stating that anything is too expensive and then slowly walking out the door (but listening for the vendor to call you back).
- Set a goal of buying your foods for 20-25% of the store’s first offer.
- When the vendor lowers the price, express genuine interest – you want the salesperson to know that you will buy when you can agree on a price.
- If you are at a cluster of similar shops, such as in the Xiangyang Market, never buy in the first store you go into. Ask them for the price on a product – this will give you a reference point from which to begin bargaining when you visit the next store.
- Saying some words in Mandarin always helps, it shows that you are not a tourist and you’re not going to pay tourists’ prices. Try to learn the numbers and the hands signs for them. Tai gui le (it is too expensive) is a classic.
- Be patient, very patient. The seller will fight for each yuan and will try to take advantage of your desire of saving time. You may think “I will not waste my time arguing for less than one dollar”. A true Shanghainese – or an expat who has lived long enough in the city – thinks “this guy is not going to get my hard-earned 8 RMB”.