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A Street Fight for Shoppers
A seesaw battle for the title of Shanghai's glossiest shopping street has entered a new phase, with Huaihai Road mustering lines of boutiques to challenge the fortresses of Nanjing Road's shopping malls.

After almost a year's work, a 100-meter stretch of stores on Huaihai Road between Maoming and Ruijin roads has re-emerged as 16 outlets for top international brands.

Before Christmas, a second front will be opened around the corner on Maoming Road, where stores in the historic Jin Jiang Hotel complex are being renovated.

Down Huaihai Road to the east, Italy's Benetton clothing company opened its largest flagship store last month.

And the 70-year-old Shanghai Watch and Clock Store is now a Swiss watch headquarters, with 18 brands at all price levels.

"Huaihai Road has kept its name as the most stylish shopping street for the last decade," Luwan District Director Zhang Zaiyang told a recent retailers' meeting.

"Now we want to intro-duce more high-level inter-national brands to spruce it up further," said Zhang.

Luwan District is more than a bystander, since Huahai Road's busiest commercial section is under its jurisdiction - and a key source of tax revenue.

The 16 brands in the boutiques that have taken off their wraps in the last two weeks include German men's casual wear Camel, Austrian crystal products Swarovski, French couturiers Oliver Grant and Amege, and American designer Christine Albers.

Hong Kong-based Immobilia Shanghai Ltd. said yesterday it has leased the Jin Jiang Hotel's street-front strip and will make it a center of international luxury under the name of Promenade on Maoming.

"It will include the world's top brands, like D&G," said the developer's Magdalene Mok.

"We will introduce more flagship stores for top brands next year," promised Yang Jishi, an official on the Luwan District's commercial commission.

The district sees Huaihai Road becoming a local version of London's Oxford Street. It may well have been inspired by Nanjing Road's makeover from a midmarket to low-end shopping mecca for out-of-towners.

In the last few years, three shopping malls - Westgate Mall, Citic Square and Plaza 66 - have opened on Nanjing Road W., changing the retail landscape.

For Nanjing Road's still-lagging eastern end, the Huangpu District government invited consultants McKinsey & Co. to work out an 18 billion-yuan, 10-year plan for a "world-class commercial destination like the Champs Elysees in Paris and Fifth Avenue in New York."

In this battle of the brands, each shopping street has its partisans.

"I like to shop on Huaihai Road, as department stores such as the Parkson and Pacific are young fashion seekers' meccas," said Emily Chen, 25, who works for a foreign-funded company.

"And there are many attractive boutiques along the street. Most of the brands fit my taste," she added.

But, Chen complained, Nanjing Road W.'s shopping malls are too expensive.

"I've often spent more than an hour in them and left empty-handed," she said.

(eastday.com November 7, 2002)

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