There is a rare breed of streets and avenues around the world that can boast line-ups of the biggest and best flagships the luxury brand fraternity has to offer. Tokyo has Ginza and Omotesando. Paris has Champs Elysees. New York has Madison and 5th Avenues while Los Angeles represents with Rodeo Drive. Then there Canton Road in Hong Kong.
Canton Road begins at the tip of Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district and runs along the East side of Harbour City shopping mall. It has long been a major tourist and shopping area aided by spectacular views of Hong Kong Island and the convenience of the Star Ferry Terminal. Over the last year a growing horde of luxury brands have been joining the elite ranks of Canton Road residents by opening flagship stores. And as each new entrant follows the familiar rules of outdoing thy neighbors, the whole street has become a marvel of facade and LED design that lures customers with ever increasing pomp and splendor.
From before lunch to well into the night on a recent Sunday, I observed the shopping dances of hundreds of thousands of people as they traversed Canton Road. In scenes more likened to looting than shopping, unending waves of shoppers poured through the stores and acquired as much merchandise as they could carry. Who was doing all the spending? Mainland Chinese!
The spoken language of Hong Kong is Cantonese, yet along the street and inside all the shops the sound of Mandarin resonated. Chauffeurs stood at attention beside their vans, ready at a moment’s notice to courier branded goodies from their passenger’s weary hands into the trunks where earlier purchases already lay in waiting. Most of these vans had license plates from both Hong Kong and Mainland China signaling that they were operating as cross border shuttle buses bringing in Mainland shoppers for the day. Families, couples, troupes of men, adolescent girls, members of the leisure and working classes, there was no discriminating here as Hong Kong’s tax free shopping haven welcomed Renminbi with open and loving arms.
I have previously covered the top store facades in Hong Kong’s Central district and have also detailed what brands such Louis Vuitton and Fendi are up to in Mainland China. I’ll let the pictures below do the rest of the talking and encourage anyone who happens to be passing through Hong Kong to check out Canton Road and see the frenzy for yourself.