China’s Street Vendors and Fashion Markets
Despite many high-end retailers in China reporting a slower growth rate this year compared with 2011, there is still a clamor of brands wanting to get into China and open new stores in the hundreds of new malls opening across China.
These malls are doing a great job of attracting the biggest international retailers and giving people the option of dressing head-to-toe in foreign brands. Meanwhile, many Chinese are still happy to mix and match designer labels with a wide range of nameless or non-logo items For these, Chinese often shop in the wide array of markets prevalent in every city across the country.
China has amazing markets for fashion and accessories shopping with wide ranges of merchandise at affordable prices, some of these markets are even the busiest shopping destinations of all. The downside of markets in China is that a great proportion of the merchandise is counterfeit, yet as outlined in this piece on Taobao, millions of Chinese are quite content to knowingly purchase fake goods.
Shopping in the country’s markets can be an exciting and rewarding experience and you may just discover a special one-of-kind item that you can purchase for next to nothing.
In China entrepreneurial street vendors regularly set up makeshift markets in popular shopping districts, train stations and generally anywhere with high pedestrian flows. These street vendors sell mix of counterfeit fashion products and other random merchandise cunningly sourced directly from factories or on the grey market. They display their wares on car boots, blankets or tables complete with portable clothing racks and mirrors.
While illegal, they are often tolerated by authorities and add a certain vibrancy to the city as they attract people and create their own retailing atmosphere.
One of Beijing’s most fascinating clothing markets is dubbed the ‘Beijing Zoo’ market. Aptly named, this multi-building, multi-level market often feels more like a jungle or a rabbit-warren-cum-maze than a fashion and accessories market.
For the uninitiated, this market completely overwhelms visitors as thousands of vendors try to hustle any and every fashion item known to man. At their wholesale prices you can opt to buy one, or one thousand of any item and its not uncommon to see non-Chinese buying bulk merchandise here to ship overseas for resale.
Products sold at the Zoo Market range from nameless brands and Chinese brands all the way to a selection of top international brands. Many of the products are outright fakes and others appear to be legitimate products with defects that should have been destroyed at the factory but find their way into the markets. The problem is you never really know what you’re buying, but there are still great discoveries and things to buy.
For aspiring fashion designers China provides a viable ecosystem to design and make your own fashion collections. Firstly, fabric is cheap and designers are free to roam massive markets to find fabrics, buttons, zippers, sequins and anything required for making garments. Secondly, China’s cheap labor pool gives designers an economical way of producing samples with tailors and seamstresses able to cater to designer’s requirements for relatively little cost.
Muxiyuan is the biggest and best fabric market in Beijing. Only 20 minutes drive southwest from the CBD, Muxiyuan Fabric Market is distinctly more ‘ghetto’ than most other parts of the city. Chances are you’ll come across a fishmonger selling the day’s catch in-between reels of fine cashmere and mass-produced mannequins, yet its still well worth a visit.
While the big modern malls full of entertainment and dining facilities are the future of retail in China, there are still plenty of other ways for consumers to access fashion products in China. For those wishing to find something unique and well priced one of China’s clothing markets is bound to hold a few treasures waiting to be uncovered.