The number of shopping malls attributed to the fact that fashion is one of the rhythms which formed the pulse of the city.
Amidst the designer collection and the high street fashion, there are options for almost everyone on the streets ranging from the highest budget to the lowest. If you happen to be looking for the latter category, you'd be happy to find the streets out there offering such bargains.
A short distance from the famous Nanjing Road, if you were to take a taxi from Nanjing East, you will come to the Qipu Road (七浦路), which is the wholesale district of the city.
Also known as 'Cheap Road', as it homonym obviously suggests, the streets practically scream of cheap clothing, shoes, accessories, and anything one can think of; although mainly women stuffs.
When one arrives at the place, there are four gigantic malls facing each other at an intersection and this is where the market starts (the wholesale market).
Each mall offers bargain buys of clothing, shoes, accessories, with small shops wedged in between each other on each level of the mall. They looked almost all the same when one steps in, and that is where the drama starts.
One will be spoilt for choices looking at all the cheap prices and the wide variety offered by the shops. However, after walking through the shops, I realized that most of the shops carry the same or almost similar items and the prices, closely matching each other.
It appears to be crowded in the mall, especially on the ground floor and the first level as the shoppers are of the locals and also tourists (though rarely so). I found that many of the locals, especially the young girls shop here for the trendy pieces.
Yes, clothes are indeed trendy here, and at more than half of the prices of that found in the malls within the cities. In fact, some of the boutiques and retail outlets got their goods from this district and just refurbished it with their own labels.
At a glance, the clothes appeared to be quite a steal, at the prices marked but upon closer inspection, one can see loose threads or below average stitching on the buttons and fabric.
Well, for the price, there is really nothing much to expect. After all, what you pay is what you get.
The quality is not half that bad, to be honest as well, at the prices for some of the clothes modeled after the popular Japanese and Korean fashion clothing. It takes time to hunt and browse through the clothes offered at each shop, and once you have found something you like, there comes the bargaining part.
As the locals say, most of the time, the bargaining starts at a minimum of 70% of the original price offered by the vendors, but then again, that depends on the quality and material of the clothing.
In Qipu Road, most of the action takes place in the first and second level of the mall where the shops seemed like they are waging war at each other with their prices and this is where most bargaining can take place.
The third and fourth level are dotted by better quality clothing; and mostly of the popular Japanese and Korean high street fashion and bargaining power decreases here as even the vendors will not entertain you if you were to bargain for more.
The malls are generally huge and crowded, but they are organized by the different categories of goods on each level. However, it is still easy to lose yourself in the mall which seemed like a neverending maze inside, so do be careful when you are shopping in these malls.
There are few tips to share when shopping here:
1. Generally the goods are cheap but one can still bargain when shopping here. The rule of thumb typically is to slash 50%-70% off the originally offered price but there are also rules to be applied:
Basement, ground and first level: 50%-70% bargaining power
Second level: 50%
Third and Fourth level: 30%
It is just a mere guideline, but it also depends on the material and the person you are dealing with. From what I learnt and know, the bargaining power decreases as you go to the higher levels.
2. Do NOT appear too keen/eager if you found something you like or you are not likely to walk away with your desired price and you will have a hard time bargaining with the vendor.
(*I think this rule applies to most shopping at retail outlets*)
3. Be careful when bargaining with the vendor, if they appear to be unfriendly or rude to you in the first place, stop the bargaining and just walk away. Do not continue barging the vendor with your prices; you could be called names and shouted after you walk away and it is a huge embarassment.
(Trust me, I witnessed this happening when I was there)
4. Do NOT even bargain for the sake of bargaining; if you are not interested to buy, don't hammer for the prices and then just walk away when they agree to sell you at the price you wanted. Refer to 3.
5. Be prepared to spend more time here; if you are rushing, you are less likely to find anything good or at a bargain.
6. Beware of pickpockets at all times; NEVER let your guard down. There are people who will attempt to push you around and then your purse will be gone, so stay alert ALL the time.
7. If you are a foreigner and cannot speak Chinese, try to come with a friend who can speak Chinese, or better still, a local. It is highly likely that a foreigner will walk away with a higher price than the locals or those who can speak Chinese.
8. Do not rush through your shopping, if you see something you like, shop around some more as most of the shops carry almost similar items. If you have the time, you will find your time trawling the shops worth it when you go home.
9. Try to come during the weekdays, as there is a smaller crowd compared to weekends. Also, do come early (they open from 9am-5.30pm). Chances are, good bargains are better struck in the morning or at the start of the day when they are in better mood. Also, the Chinese believe in getting their first deal a success when they open up for business or it could bring them bad luck for the rest of the day, so if you are lucky and offer a good price, you are likely to walk away with a good deal.
Generally, this is a place for those who love good bargains and can really bargain, not to mention shopping. If you are an avid shopper on a budget, this is the place for you, but do make sure you have equally good bargaining skills.
If you are a shopper but lack the skills in the bargaining department, bring along a friend who is good or just simply come and have a look and hone your own skills.
However, if you are not one for bargains nor do you like crowds, I'd say to avoid this place altogether as the crowds here are not that you'd like to mess with.
To me, I enjoyed the whole experience of people watching and judging the different qualities presented here although I didn't shop that much. I was here to check out the wholesale district and also to see how low their prices are. Sure, I was worried about pickpockets and also the notorious vendors with sharp tongues, but it didn't really affect my overall experience.
I think it's not really that difficult either, the key is to calm and offer a price that you think the piece is worth, instead of slashing simply most of the time.
If they refuse to budge, then walk away. If you are lucky, which most of the time most are, chances are they will call you back and offer you another round of bargaining to settle on a price for both sides.
You can walk home a happy shopper. If you are into fixed retail prices instead of places like these, well, I'd say the mall is a better option.
It is a place where you either like it or you don't; as the saying goes, 'One man's meat is another's poison'.