Beijing parents share their brand knowledge with expat moms and dads
When it comes to purchasing items for their kids, foreign parents in Beijing rarely take advantage of low-priced local brands – safety comes first when junior’s concerned, and many parents prefer to spend a little more on imported brands they know they can trust. Of course, Beijing’s expats hail from all over the globe, and different folks are loyal to different labels on the international market. We conducted an informal survey of the city’s families to find out which brands experienced parents seek out, and where they do their shopping. Here’s what we found.
North American Parents
Good quality clothing is getting easier to find in Beijing reports American mom Eliot Bikales. For standard kids’ clothing, Bikales regularly shops at Decathlon. “Their clothes hold up well, and with four active kids, that’s important,” she says. Bikales occasionally finds GAP seconds at local markets or at the stores in Pinnacle Plaza – she likes this brand because there’s no guesswork involved in the sizes. To cater to the more alternative tastes of her 11-year-old daughter Maral, Bikales turns to the Internet, buying goth gear from fashion website Hot Topic.
For sporting gear and clothing, Angela Mueller, also from the States, is another Decathlon fan. “The equipment we bought there a year ago is still in great shape, and the clothes are washing and wearing very well,” she states happily.
For kids’ parties, Mueller shops at Exquisite, and she particularly recommends their Wilton baking supplies. “Exquisite has all kinds of party supplies, children’s custom cakes and decorations. The Wilton baking supplies allow you to create your own cake, which is great fun for kids. They also have classes, which are a great activity for the children as well.”
Foreign parents who speak Chinese are often more comfortable buying Chinese brands, observes Cecil Pollydore, a father of three from Guyana. “Those foreigners who travel back and forth will bring things back from home, but those of us who settle in Beijing learn to make do with what is here.”
For the widest range of international kid’s items, he tends to rely on the stores at Scitech Plaza and the Yansha Shopping Mall, although he warns that items bought here are on the expensive side.
“When I first moved to Beijing several years ago, reliable children’s products were hard to find – now, there are more products to choose from every passing day,” says Pollydore. “I find that if you’re willing to go walking and searching through the local markets, you can find good prices and quality.”
Pollydore’s preferred hunting grounds include the Alien Street Market and lesser-known Dongjiao Market (southeast of Soho New Town on Dawang Lu). Some local brands Pollydore has come to trust are Goodbaby (for strollers and other gear) and Anta (for kids‘ shoes). “Anta is cheap, good quality, and not fake,” he reports.
Dutch daddy Michael Sahlsberg laments that the “practically indestructible” handmade items like cotton diapers and woolen baby underwear he buys in his wife’s native Sweden aren’t available in Beijing. He manages to import some, however, from Ullrike. But there’s a hazard involved with purchasing this website’s quality clothing: “Your baby won’t need so many layers of clothing and a father on his own will soon find himself cornered by local pensioners screaming ta leng (she’s too cold)!”
Middle Eastern Parents
Peter Marvian from the United Arab Emirates hasn’t yet needed to import any products for young Sam, finding most of his needs answered at supermarkets like Hualian, Carrefour, and Ito Yakado. In terms of specific brands, Marvian goes for the reliable Japanese baby products label Pigeon and for internationally recognized Johnson and Johnson. For strollers and children’s furniture, Marvian is happy with the cheaper stuff on offer at Five Star Market on the North Third Ring Road.
East Asian Parents
Korean products enjoy a good reputation for quality, and Korean import stores in the Wangjing area serve the local Korean community well. Little Soo Hong’s mother, Kandy Choi, shops at Ice Cream for kid’s clothing from Korea. The quality is good, Choi reports, but she warns that the stuff is “not that cheap.”
Like many foreigners in Beijing, local father Li Xianming recommends Johnson and Johnson, saying that it’s the international brand that Chinese parents respect the most. “It’s known to be non-allergenic, and safe for kids with sensitive skin,” he explains. As for local products, he has great respect for San Lu baby milk brand, but now often shops for imported Nestlé. It’s getting easier and easier to buy good imported products in China,” he says, “as smaller supermarkets are now stocking wider varieties and better brands.”