This interesting review in Access Asia’s Weekly View on Asia may be the explanation for a phenomenon I had a hard time understanding: The last few times I have been in China, I have been surprised at the number of luxury brand stores, and also by the complete lack of customers in them.
Both in Beijing and Shanghai, there are real Armani, Gucci, Coach, and what have you stores, with prices equal to or even higher than in Scandinavia (and that is saying something.) Luxury stores sell fantasies, of course, and not products. But even so, I wondered how the stores in the shopping center of the basement of the World Trade Center in Beijing could survive – the only customers I could see were those following their kids to the indoor skating rink, having a drink or a meal, or buying toiletries at the one convenience store.
The tourists were nowhere to be seen – they go to the Pearl Market to match their bargaining wits with the seasoned pros selling Pashmina scarves and yes-Sir-we-will-change-that-Gucci-belt-buckle-for-a-Docle&Gabbana-one leather goods.
(Hat tip to Cory Doctorow, who was in Beijing at the same time as I was)