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Beijing's Department Stores: for Yuppies or the Rest?

There are so many places in Beijing for young people to find trendy clothes and fancy shoes, ranging from luxurious outlets and chic department stores to big shopping malls. But older residents complain that such places offer little that is of interest to them.
Shopping in Beijing is a breeze nowadays. You can buy nearly all daily necessities in super or hypermarkets around town, or even in a tiny convenience store in your apartment building. You can also find world famous fashion brands, make-up and other luxury products in the city's shopping centers and department stores.

Maybe Beijing is still not yet a shoppers' paradise like Hong Kong, but it sounds pretty easy for people to buy the stuff they want. But let's hear what a 55-year-old native Beijinger says.

he says he always finds it difficult to get clothes suitable for him. It seems the garments in department stores are all designed for young people. They are too trendy and fashionable for him. And also too expensive.

So, it's not ideal for everyone. Most department stores and shopping malls in Beijing are high-class modern outfits, selling quality goods and leading the trend. But, strolling around such places one soon sees it's really hard to find stuff suitable for older people.

Some stores have already seen the problem and tried to fix it. For example, the newly renovated Xidan Department Store in downtown Beijing is now re-targeting ordinary people.

For many decades, this famous store was popular with the locals, because its products were good quality and reasonably priced. Then, last year, the store began focusing on expensive high-class products, aiming to attract the yuppie set and other young people with money in their pockets.

It didn't work: Customers, sales and profits all took a nose dive! So this year the store, while still offering luxury fashions and perfumes with fancy French and Italian names, dedicated one of its floors to clothes for older people. This did work! The Xidan Department Store is winning back its old customers.

This middle-aged customer says she is happy that she can again buy something in the store that suits her.
Many of Beijing's department stores are in a similar dilemma to that faced by the Xidan Department Store: whether to exclusively target fashion conscious trendies who wouldn't be seen dead in a polyester shirt, or also cater to people who just want something that does the job and doesn't cost too much.

(CRI April 30, 2004)

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