Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Some American Retailers ; a Statement of Purpose

Very quickly I'd like to talk about two slices of the American big-box lifestyle making it over to China. With the further de-regulation of the Chinese market, I suppose, a couple of American retailers recently put up stake in Shanghai. The first was entirely welcome:

You can see it's an outlet of Best Buy, actually the world's largest branch of the electronics chain. I was looking forward to the opening, a few days after Christmas, because buying electronics in Shanghai is a huge bother. The normal way to do it is to go to one of Xujiahui's large electronics bazaars, with lots of very small stalls, each holding one or two different brands of goods. Instead of just freely looking at products, you have to enter a bargaining stance. And to get the best deal, you have to price-compare, at dozens of different places, all along with the feeling that nobody's cutting a foreigner a break.

Unfortunately the prices at Best Buy, if better than Shanghai's other electronics chain stores, generally don't match up to these smaller dealers. Furthermore, the return policy is only two weeks, and only when things are broken - and I got a whole lot of guff when trying to return something with bad software, seemingly out of a general disbelief that a foreigner can install software properly. It's still much larger than anything else in Shanghai, and a good place to browse, but not what I had hoped for.

The other recent chain store opened a few weeks before Christmas: Toys 'R Us. The storefront, in the upscale Lujiazui area, is actually pretty small, but I decided to go in and have a look. The insides are much larger than the storefront would indicate, although truth be told I'm not really in the market for toys. It was still fun to look around. Given the prices and the American branding, I thought there would be a lot of foreigners, but it was all Chinese families browsing the aisles.

If you look above, you see the Autobots sign. I was surprised because I thought Transformers had faded away since I was a kid. Actually the section was pretty large, and while there were some differences, they were still massively overpriced, just the way I remember! They had a large model of Optimus Prime, and while I considered fulfilling childhood ambitions and buying the toy, I quickly nixed the idea.

Not to say these are the only foreign companies doing business in China - the mall with the Toys 'R Us is operated by a Thai company, Citibank's Asian headquarters is a few minute's walk from there, McDonald's and Starbuck's are well established around Shanghai, and Motorola and Nokia phones are dangling from everybody's necklaces (no, really). But both these stores enter a retail niche that's now dominated by local mom & pop operations, and I'm guessing these store openings are a Harbinger of what's more to come.

Oh, and I've had a flurry of updates over the past couple of weeks. Expect the pace to continue; I have a three-month backlog of pictures and topics that I'd like to put online. But even when I make my way through the stack, I'm hoping to make this blog a two or three times a week affair. The scope will be changed, I'll try to have both lighter updates, and to get into more investigative looks at Shanghai. Definitely I think this blog will get better and better.

By far the best blog I've come across (and in that way, a recent inspiration for this blog) is Boston, 1775. Have a look-see!

1 comment:

acidelic said...

Transformers are probably coming back into style since a Transformer movie is in the works.