The trans­for­ma­tion of shop­ping

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

said Wang Xudong, a Shang­hai native.

To serve the pop­u­la­tion of th­ese newly ur­ban­ized ar­eas, mas­sive shop­ping malls in­stead of de­part­ment stores were added to the land­scape. Th­ese fa­cil­i­ties, such as the Su­per Grand Mall in Pudong New Area and Grand Gate­way 66 in Xuhui dis­trict, com­bined so­cial, com­mer­cial and recre­ational of­fer­ings un­der one roof. Tra­di­tional de­part­ment stores in cen­tral Shang­hai had in com­par­i­son be­come one-di­men­sional.

By 1999, busi­ness zones in the city hit 20 mil­lion square me­ters, al­most quin­tu­pling the fig­ure in 1990, ac­cord­ing to Chao Gan­gling, busi­ness school pro­fes­sor at Shang­hai Univer­sity of Fi­nance and Eco­nom­ics. How­ever, the num­ber of small- and mid-range de­part­ment stores had de­creased by more than a half. This sit­u­a­tion was ex­ac­er­bated in the mid-2000s when e-com­merce emerged.

“It’s con­ve­nient when shop­ping is sim­ply about mak­ing a few clicks on the mouse. And then there’s also the al­lure of dis­count coupons and de­liv­ery ser­vice,” said Chao, who is also the vice-chair­man of the Shang­hai Busi­ness Eco­nom­ics Society.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, the over­all size of the na­tion’s on­line re­tail sec­tor was 7.18 tril­lion yuan ($1.05 tril­lion) last year, a rise of about 32 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year.

But de­spite talk about how brick and mor­tar re­tail busi­nesses might face ex­tinc­tion in the face of e-com­merce, Chao be­lieves there will al­ways be a place for off­line shop­ping.

“The unique as­pect of a mall is the ex­pe­ri­ence you get from spend­ing time din­ing, play­ing or even learn­ing. This ex­pe­ri­ence is some­thing e-com­merce can­not of­fer,” he said.

“There is no need to ‘fight against’ e-com­merce. It’s about giv­ing full play to off­line ad­van­tages,” he added.

The cur­rent re­tail trend sup­ports this sen­ti­ment. Old de­part­ment stores are be­ing trans­formed into new malls that of­fer a blend of re­tail and ex­pe­ri­en­tial of­fer­ings.

For ex­am­ple, the for­mer Ori­ent Shop­ping Cen­ter along Huai­hai Road was turned into a mall that fea­tures the world’s largest flag­ship stores for Un­der Ar­mour and Muji.

The Pa­cific De­part­ment Store along the same road, which was shut down in 2016, has been trans­formed into the new Xin­tiandi Plaza which is slated to open at the end of this year. The new space will fea­ture a host of top global brands, pop­u­lar restau­rants, and an area ded­i­cated to art shows and tech­nol­ogy ex­hi­bi­tions. There will also be two rooftop out­door gar­dens over­look­ing the bustling area.

Some branches of tra­di­tional stores in Shang­hai, like Prin­temps De­part­ment Store, New World De­part­ment Store and Ori­ent Shop­ping Cen­ter have also sought to stay rel­e­vant in th­ese mod­ern times by in­tro­duc­ing new spa­ces for pub­lic events, din­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and en­ter­tain­ment.

Shang­hai had an­nounced a three­year plan ear­lier this year to build the four brands of the city — ser­vices, man­u­fac­tur­ing, shop­ping and cul­ture — to be­come a shop­ping hub that will of­fer the world’s trendi­est and most value-for-money prod­ucts.

The city is also plan­ning to cre­ate two world-class shop­ping streets, 10 lo­cal first-class core busi­ness dis­tricts, and 20 spe­cial shop­ping dis­tricts by 2020.

The re­vi­tal­iza­tion of 50 brands with Shang­hai char­ac­ter­is­tics and 50 time-hon­ored brands is also a ma­jor part of the pro­ject. Tra­di­tional stores that are clas­sic icons of Shang­hai society, said Chao, will take the lead in this trans­for­ma­tion process.

Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine clin­ics, as well as Shao Wan Sheng, which sells al­co­hol-pre­served food that has been pop­u­lar with gour­mands for more than a cen­tury.

Among the old­est brands are writ­ing brush man­u­fac­turer Zhouhuchen and ink stick man­u­fac­turer Cao­sug­ong, which were founded in 1694 and 1667 re­spec­tively.

Qi pointed out that one of the key chal­lenges is repo­si­tion­ing th­ese old brands to be more at­trac­tive to dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics.

“We have to ad­mit that some of the time-hon­ored brands are not fa­mil­iar with young con­sumers, and there is a long way for us to go be­fore we can re­vive them,” said Qi.

He also noted how jewelry maker and re­tailer Lao Feng Xiang, which has opened sev­eral over­seas stores in­clud­ing one on Fifth Av­enue in New York, has set a good ex­am­ple of how old brands can ex­pand their busi­ness.


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