Our home in the UK is near the Bicester Village outlet shopping center, an amazing place to pick up bargains on designer clothes, shoes, and bags. So imagine my delight when we moved to Beijing four years ago at finding out we would be living close to Beijing Scitech Premium Outlet Mall (Chinese-only website) on Xiangjiang Beilu. But despite covering 150,000sqm, two floors, and 150 stores, it turned out that my expectations were far from met – at least at first.
Levi jeans are a third more expensive than in London and you’ll need to take out a second mortgage to afford a pair of Bally shoes. Unfortunately, the price of luxury goods is already inflated by the time products reach China’s shores due to import taxes, so you won’t get the same discounts you would elsewhere.
A year later, in a desperate bid to find a pair of decent heels for a ball, I gave Scitech another go. I discovered to my delight a Nine West store with fabulous shoes at discounted prices. They’re last season’s styles, but who cares?
Since then, more stores have opened up with lower-end brands offering the best discounts. There are also pop-up stalls dotting the complex selling everything from designer sunglasses to kids’ shoes. If you look hard enough within the higher-end stores, you may actually find a few bargains there too.
Scitech Mall is ideal for an afternoon of browsing. Its open-plan environment is safe for kids to run around, with plenty of clean bathrooms and a few places to eat and drink. If you don’t want to walk from one end to the other, you can always hop on one of the complimentary carts.
The Gap Outlet has everything you need to kit out your kids, from newborn onesies, vests, and sleep suits to the famous Gap hoodies for every age range and color imaginable. For toddler girls, there are cute skirts, cotton sundresses, leggings, and tops for RMB 99-199. For toddler boys, there are funky t-shirts and cotton shorts for RMB 109-149. For older boys, you can get smart shirts, cotton trousers, and jeans; for the girls, you’ll find cool dresses, skinny fit jeans, and floral flip-flops.
For the summer time, there’s also a good selection of UV rash vests for RMB 129 and board shorts for RMB 149. Moms will find jersey sundresses, cotton a-line skirts, and shorts for RMB 109-209, plus the usual range of classic shirts, jeans, and casual trousers. For dads, there are t-shirts, button-ups, and a variety of trousers.
At the moment, there’s a clearance event on with an additional 40 percent off already discounted clothes. I’ve also seen a promotion where you get 40 percent off if you buy seven items or 30 percent off if you buy five. From June 20-22, you can pick up voucher cards, which will give you RMB 50 off when you spend RMB 350.
Other than Gap, choices for kids are limited. However, current pop-up stores include Naturino with shoes priced between RMB 400-500. There’s also UV swimwear, with tops, shorts, and all-in-ones for RMB 110-190; Nautica kids’ shorts, t-shirts and summer dresses; E-Land Teenie Weenie bear-themed clothing; and Kappa Kids sportswear.
Moms have a few options. At the Diesel store, most items are half price; there’soften an extra discount on top of the tag prices, which the staff doesn’t exactly jump to tell you about. You might get an extra 10-30 percent off. A black silk sleeveless top was RMB 850 (down from RMB 1,700) and a floral silk maxi dress was RMB 1,700 (down from RMB 2,400); there was an extra 20 percent off the dress. Diesel stocks a range of sizes, so it’s not just for the XS ladies. Expect to pay RMB 1,500 for a pair of jeans (both men and women).
Esprit doesn’t stock many of the items you’ll see in their retail stores, which is a shame because the brand seems to have disappeared from Sanlitun Village and Solana. However, they do have casual clothing such as trousers, tops, and skirts with prices comparable to Gap’s. It’s a bit disorganized, with too many items on too many racks, but it’s worth rifling through if you’ve got time to spare.
Ports 1961, a fashion house originally founded in Toronto, specializes in luxury ready-to-wear items. You’ll find beautiful georgette shift dresses and silk-jersey dresses in vibrant colors and patterns, all perfect for a summer occasion. A white short drape dress was RMB 1,979 (down from RMB 3,299), a little black or in red silk dress was RMB 2,289 (down from RMB 3,499), and a banana yellow fitted dress a la Kate Middleton was RMB 1,299 (down from RMB 2,499).This store is worth a visit when the end-of-season sales are on; you can get another 40 percent off – or more – on many of the items.
If it’s simple t-shirts and smart cotton trousers you’re after, head to Calvin Klein, where you can browse a range of t-shirts for RMB 390-590 and light summer trousers for RMB 700-1,200.
If the thought of your better half wearing flip-flops fills you with dread, the Armani store has some very smart black leather sandals at half price. The shop also has a good selection of t-shirts down to RMB 400.
In general, the sportswear selections at Scitech change with the seasons. That’s fine if you do all your exercise outdoors, but trying to find a running vest in February to use in the gym is nigh impossible, so stock up on lightweight clothes now while they’re still available.
Adidas has running tanks as low as RMB 169 and capris for RMB 239. For men, the savings are RMB 100-150 off tops and tracksuit bottoms. There are Stella McCartney tops for RMB 400 and bottoms for RMB 600, which is around a 30 percent saving. The store stocks all the latest running and cross-training shoes from RMB 399-599, about 25-30% off what you’d pay in their flagship Sanlitun store.
The Nike Factory Outlet has an even bigger range of training and running shoes (RMB 499-899), Dri-Fit running tops and capris for RMB 199. For men, golf polo tops and running shorts costRMB 299. You’ll also find everything you need for basketball, tennis and football.
My favorite Nine West store continues to deliver the goods with its own brand and now Steve Madden too. Expect gorgeous, strappy heeled sandals in patent, pastel and print. There are courts, pumps, and in winter fabulous boots, with prices ranging from RMB 300-1,000 per pair.
Stella Luna has a range of wedge-heeled summer sandals for RMB 269-369, strappy heeled sandals for RMB 320 -420, and plenty of flats. For their current promotion, you get RMB 200 off if you spend RMB 1,000; RMB 300 off if you spend RMB 1,500; or RMB 400 off if you spend RMB 2,000.
The bad news is that Burgers and Beer is now closed, which is a real shame since it served decent burgers and was the best lunch option at Scitech. There’s always Starbucks with its usual panini sandwiches, cakes, and pastries. It’s a good choice if you have young kids, as there is a play area right outside.
You can keep an eye on theme whilst sipping your latte on the terrace. If they get too hot on all that plastic play equipment, there are fountains for them to dip their toes in. Subway is also adjacent to the play area and has outdoor seating.
KFC is always packed, mainly with people looking for a cheap ice cream sundae. For a more tasty ice cream option, head next door to Baskin Bobbins; their peanut butter chocolate ice cream is worth a visit to the mall alone.
There is also Danny’s Hotdog Stand, a juice bar and a Belgian waffle house. For Chinese food, there is Gourmet Plaza, which is always full to bursting with locals.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.
Photos by Sally Wilson