Sunday, 16 May 2010

Shanghai - Day 4 - Qipu Road

A Whole lot of Sales in them Wholesalers

overcast 25 °C
Etta's 2 most fave pastime are dining out and shopping. It follows that HK and Singapore are 2 of her fave destinations. Of course, HK ranks higher than Singapore on both counts (especially the food where HK's standard is considerably higher). Actually 3 counts if you include prices. Shanghai is a real contender for the top spot. In terms of prices, Shanghai aces the other two by miles. As for food, we are beginning to be convinced that Shanghai's food scene is almost as good as HK both in term of quality and variety. Almost. Not quite. It's getting there, giving time. And this is helped by the fact that many of the HK restaurants' chains/franchises make their inroads here as the market is so big. In Shanghai as in Singapore, we tried out many HK's franchises and found out that their standard is somewhat under HK's. I guess they're using local chefs, and despite training, always lacks that something ('je ne cest quoi') quality.
I'm not into shopping, but since Etta is, I'd better got in on the act. Did some research and took her there.
We heard about Qipu Road (七浦路) from Rachel, a place where we can find many clothing wholesalers sell their merchants directly to retailers that sell to public after mark up. Who doesn't like to cut out the middle man if they can? Since China is the world's biggest factory (of just about every products), one can expect the number of clothing wholesalers must be humongous. Remember too that textile/clothing industry is the first to export from China, and she makes a staggering 75% of the world's apparels. And we soon found out that the reputation is well deserved.
We took a metro to Baoshan Road (宝山路) Station, caught a taxi to Qipu Road even if it's only 500m from the station. We want to fully rest our legs for the gruelling shopping ahead (we ain't spring chicken). The cab fare was 12 yuans, which was the flag fall fee for 3 kms. Since the distance was only 500m, the meter was never ticked over.
The Baoshan Road place has some shops, but not large or busy. When we get to Qipu road, throng of shoppers made busy beelines along the pedestrian sky walks sudden appeared. Two malls both with 5 floors each stared at one another across the intersection of Henan North Road and Qipu Road like two boxers in a boxing ring. We went in one of them first, and starting on the 5th floor, which was the Men and Ladies Brand name fashion floor, and worked our way down. The mall is packed with shops from pillar to post, but we reached the ground floor totally empty handed. Shame on us! There were some girlie shirts on the ground floors that sold for 10 yuans that looked quite fun to wear. Etta isn't at the fun age. And I can't find these girlies' T's in my size.
Disappointed, we decided to fill the emptiness with lunch. The 5th floor on the opposite mall just happened to have a food gallery. We headed there, had lunch, and thought we may as well have another looksee as we made our way down to the ground floor. The next thing we knew, I'm holding a garbage bag, and Etta's a shopping bag filled with clothes from 3 shops.
We had gave up hope before lunch, we're really fussy shoppers as we should, but the bargains over here were hard to resist. Gucci and Fendi cotton T's cost 50 yuans a pop. Nike, and other sport name brand cotton T's cost 10 yuan. I didn't buy any of these because I own many T's, and little $'s. I bought a Nike track pant just so I can wear it while I'm in the hotel in Shanghai (I forgot to pack it), and bought a fleecy Kappa jacket that cost ¥100 (Etta said this top easily cost over 100 SGD in Singapore shop, and she knows her stuff). A polyester sport T that's going to be handy in Singapore - the only type of shirts I wear these days in Singapore. Even cotton shirt wasn't cool enough for me. By cool, I mean temperature, not fashion statement. I'm too cool to care about what people think.
Because of the razor-thin margin (for the sales items), I was given garbage bags instead of a shopping bag for my clothes. I was wondering before why are so many people walking around with garbage bags. They dressed too smart to be janitors. And some were Westerners.
In fact, many of the prices here are identical to Singapore in numerical values. For example, a shirt that you think would cost 20 SGD in Singapore store would cost 20 Yuans here (1 SGD = 5 RMB approx). This translates into 80% discount.
Because they're wholesalers, you don't get the kind of service you expect from retailers. That's why you pay them more. Much more. First, none of these shops have change rooms, so you can't try them on. You aren't even allowed to put on, say a jacket, in the shop even if you don't need a fitting room for that. It's forbidden practise in the industry (so I was told as I tried to try it on). They do have a mirror that you can drape your clothing item over your body to gauge for sizes. They also don't issue receipts, so we can't really return them if they wouldn't fit us. Well, that the price you pay for the wholesale discount. Luckily, nearly everything we bought turned out to be a perfect fit (Etta's 30 years of intensive shopping training helps)[1]. So, this isn't a big issue. You just need to take some precautionary measures. For example, carefully inspect your clothes for damages like holes or tears (or in case of torn jeans, make sure they do have tears[2]), and things like zippers are in working order. Also, the shop's staff wear their shops' clothing straight off their hangers/shelves; they all walking around in their clothes with price tags dangling like some weird new fashion trend. So wash your clothes after you buy them from here, not that this isn't the usual practise if you buy clothes from somewhere else. I know people who don't stick to this hygienic policy. Not that the staff are too cheap to buy clothes, I think they try to model some of their clothes since you can't try them on. As a general rule, prepare to write off 10-15% of your purchases here. I.e. expect one item out of ten wouldn't make the cut, so to speak.
Actually, there are few more such large malls in the areas, and more shops on the street level on Qipu Road, but we already had a sizable catch, and was tired, and so called it for the day.
Qipu Road, Shanghai
We tried to catch a taxi like the way we came. But was no easy task. Since that was no taxi stand, and we tried to hail them from the roadside, we were kept jumped queue (if there's one) by locals. It was then when we were begun to show sign of being flustered, a lady utut driver pulled next to us, and asked if we want a ride. I asked how much for our destination, she said 6 yuans. We hopped on.
What is a utut? I'm sure you've never heard of this name. Me neither. I just made it up. It looks like Bangkok's tutu, but the passengers sit facing backwards. Hence 'utut', 'tutu' spells backwards (or 'kut-kut' if you insist). I just don't know what these vehicles are called, but they are around Shanghai streets (not common, but they're around, especially away from downtown Shanghai). It was a cheap thrilled ride for half the price of a taxi ride for twice the fun, and gives you a totally different perspective of the traffic.

Qipu Road, ShanghaiIn downtown, especially uptown (CBD) Shanghai, you only see public (or private) vehicles that you would see in any city in the West. But once you get a little further away from downtown, all kind of more interesting vehicles appearing on the road.

[1] One pair of shorts fit me well. Even if I had put it on in a change room, I probably am happy with it. As it turned out, after putting on the wallet in the back pocket, it was too low. My wallet had shaped to the contour of my bum like a pair of glove. Now that it sits lower, it simply doesn't feel right. Even the front pockets are low. Well, I just put them in the bottom drawer, so to speak. Let's say this is a 50% write-off.
[2] Etta's dad saw her wearing one of her torn jeans and said it was time to retire it (she only wore it twice).

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