Post-makeover new looks sav­age old trade

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS | FOCUS - By YANG ZIMAN yangz­i­man@chi­

There was a time when Bei­jing’s Yashow shop­ping cen­ter was throb­bing with the business of cus­tom tai­lor­ing, pop­u­lar among for­eign­ers liv­ing in or vis­it­ing the cap­i­tal. Not any more. The cen­ter’s makeover has hit the business hard.

Yashow started off as a whole­sale mar­ket for gar­ments. It grad­u­ally de­vel­oped into one of the fa­vorite shop­ping spots of for­eign­ers be­cause of its low-priced knock­offs and Chi­nese knick­knacks. Travel agen­cies would work with Yashow to bring in for­eign tour groups to shop there.

In Oc­to­ber last year, a ten­month re­mod­el­ing started to trans­form the cen­ter into a high-end shop­ping mall tar­get­ing fash­ion-chas­ing young con­sumers.

The makeover has, how­ever, alien­ated the cen­ter’s orig­i­nal cus­tomer base and hurt the tai­lor­ing business, which com­prises many shops on the third floor.

“Old-timers don’t visit any more,” said Shen Bai­jun, the owner of Alice My Tai­lor that opened shop in 2007. “It’s al­most lunch time. Not one cus­tomer shop yet.”

The tai­lor shops are a decade old. For 1,000 yuan, men can have a fine cus­tom-made suit made here. Prices of for­mal shirts start at 150 yuan.

“I’ve cus­tom-made clothes for sev­er­alNBAs­tarsand­shirts has come into my for Shaun Mur­phy, a Bri­tish snooker player, whenhe vis­ited Bei­jing fo­ra­tour­na­ment,” Shen said, rem­i­nisc­ing.

Prof­its at Shen’s shop are down two-thirds since the cen­ter’s re­open­ing in July 2016, while the rent has more than dou­bled.

No won­der, many tai­lor shops have shifted, or are shift­ing, from Yashow to other places such as the Silk Street, not far away. Oth­ers are pon­der­ing their next move.

Huang, a sales­per­son at Jim Tai­lor at Yashow, said foot­falls have plum­meted after the re­open­ing. “The makeover doesn’t seem ef­fec­tive. Our boss hasn’t de­cided yet where to re­lo­cate the shop.”

For his part, Shen has rented a new but much smaller place in San­l­i­tun Soho, a shop­ping cen­ter across the street, in an at­tempt to re­tain his reg­u­lar clien­tele.

An Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist work­ing for Global Times in Bei­jing, who iden­ti­fied him­self as David with­out re­veal­ing his sur­name, said he has been hav­ing his clothes cus­tom made at AliceMy Tai­lor for three years.

A few days after Shen’s new shop opened, David paid a visit and or­dered two shirts and a pair of trousers. While tak­ing his mea­sure­ments, Shen con­versed with David in English and could an­tic­i­pate the lat­ter’s needs.

“I know all the good places (to make clothes) in Bei­jing. But Shen gives me the best bar­gain. We are old friends,” said David.

Shen agreed. “Tai­lor­ing re­quires per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions. Reg­u­lar cus­tomers’ word of mouth is very im­por­tant. Ad­ver­tis­ing can never as­sure you of any­thing.” Gao Songya con­trib­uted to this story


Two vis­it­ing con­sumers check out sports­wear at a store in Yashow shop­ping cen­ter in Bei­jing dur­ing the seven-day Na­tional Day hol­i­day last week.

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