I really want to love the Bizcult blog, they come up with such great titles for their articles, but having read 2 recent posts, I find a lot to disagree with, though, I should let them off as its the articles they're quoting that lead them astray. Their blog entries typically start out with some creative lead-ins to introduce an article and then goes into it further.
One, for example, looks at Beijing’s west side and a mall that’s a favorite here at Modern Lei Feng, Joy City (check out our post about it here). It starts out: “What’s the west side of Beijing known for? Maybe squat toilets, newspapers on bulletin boards or old men playing cards.”
Huh? Wha??? Wait a second, why diss the west side? By the way, what accounts for the west side? Does it extend to the southwest and Fengtai? Does it go northwest to the university area in Haidian? What about the foreign enclave that is Houhai?
It goes on to say: "International retailers could be giving that more 'traditional; side of town a makeover. We’re not talking about Gucci and Prada. It’s more mid-range international retailers that are interested in the west side.”
Umm…What can I say, but WRONG! The “traditional” side of town? According to whom? First, if there is an area of Beijing that has resisted “change”, it would be the southern part of the city, basically anything south of subway line 2. As for international retailers not being interested in the west side, that’s if you don’t go any further west than Xidan. However, if you take the subway one stop further and head to Fuxingmen, you’ll find Armani, Cartier, Burberry, as well as Prada and Gucci, plus Beijing’s only version of the ultra-luxury department store Lane Crawford (all located in Parksons and Seasons Plaza).
The west side is positively overflowing with big money, all the banks are located there and it has now become the financial district, walk around Fuxingmen at lunchtime and try not to bump into an I-Banker, I dare you!
Xidan isn’t a luxury spot, its sort of Beijing’s version of Tokyo’s Shibuya . It’s usually teeming with teens and twenty something’s who are looking for mid-priced goods. Joy City encompasses this outlook, full of your typical foreign high street shops or their Chinese equivalents (ie Zara, Next, French Connection, Izzue, and Esprit), but also the lower end Chinese brands like Baleno, Giordano, Semir, and all the rest. It’s basically a mirror image of The Place, which the writer described as “posh.”
The article states that Xidan “hasn’t always been a hit with foreign brands” just because Uniqlo failed there is a bit of a stretch, what about the Uniqlo location that failed in what the article describes as the “luxe” (a major stretch as its very mixed) that is Oriental Plaza?
In another entry talking about Chinese retail therapy, Shanghai is used as an example. The lead in to this one uses Nanjing East Road as an example, though this isn’t a very useful example because that area is filled with low-end Chinese and Hong Kong brands and very few “high street” brands and no luxury brands (beyond luxury watches).
The article concludes “While it is clear from Nanjing East road that more affluent customers don’t mind paying extra for that hip foreign brand, it’s not enough to sit back and rest on your laurels quite yet.” Again, what? Affluent shoppers are NOT going anywhere near Nanjing East, their down the road on Nanjing West at Plaza 66 and Plaza City or they’re roaming around Xintiandi. Further, Nanjing East Road is NOT a place to find local Shanghainese, it’s a place to find tourists, Chinese and foreign, but only tourists.
We feel a bit sorry for the blog as they dropped these entries right into our wheelhouse, so we felt the need to correct them. We have 2 lifelong west side residents here and so they were especially sensitive about the insult.
We do really want to thank Bizcult though as the article which led to their westside post has us starting to dream as it said that major foreign stores like the UK's Topshop and the US' Urban Outfitters and Banana Republic are coming to China this year. If this is true, it could be an expensive fall for us...