When I was in elementary school, and before the clothing obsession began, my first love was stationary. In fourth grade, the favored brand for girls was Lisa Frank. Though her status symbol didn’t quite reach the level of Frozen, it was a close second. Lisa Frank’s colorful and often animal adorned notebooks, pens, pencils, were definitely the “in” thing to have. As I got older, I gravitated toward Five Star First Gear, a collection of overpriced but surprisingly sturdy notebooks, binders, and pencil cases that wouldn’t fall apart given the wear and tear of the school year.
Most international schools are starting soon, if they haven’t already. With expat families now returning to Beijing from summer visits home, parents surely stocked up on the essentials like shoes and possibly clothes (if your school doesn’t have uniforms), but now it’s time to find the fun stuff: the notebooks, pens, pencils, backpacks and more. One of the great things about Beijing is that you can find these items for fairly cheap and we are not at a shortage of options. Since we’re already on the subject of back-to-school time, here’s a round-up of some suggestions on where to shop for all of child’s stationary necessities.
Muji – A beijingkids editor favorite, Muji is a Japanese retail company that sells a variety of household and consumer goods, including stationary. Distinguished by their minimalist design, Muji is a great option to take teenagers with more refined taste. Colored pens are RMB 8-10 depending on the tip and highlighters cost between RMB 12-15. A basic notebook is around RMB 30.
Beijing International Art Material Center – Though this three-story art supply store located in Wanging near the Central Academy of Fine Arts is largely a domain for artists, they actually stock tons of back to school supplies for low prices, some in the single digits. Find everything from plain and graphic printed notebooks to crayons, markers, and colored pencils. A basic 8-piece Crayola marker set is RMB 32.
Hit the Markets Yashow Silk Market , Hongqiao – I wouldn’t normally advocate the crowded and often headache inducing encounters of market shopping, but where else can you find “brand-name” gear for a fraction of the price of what you’d pay at home? I bought a Kipling backpack at Silk Market last year for RMB 150 and it’s still in great condition. Be warned- some vendors know they have the must-have goods and will bargain hard. Yes, we’re looking at you Hello Kitty booth.
Wal-Mart– Love them or hate them, with low prices and multiple locations the American chain and world’s largest corporation could very well have what you need. Notebooks cost between RMB 6 and RMB 35. We also spotted Hello Kitty backpacks, army fatigue print, and Disney princess backpacks for under RMB 100.
FengGuo 疯果- Literally meaning “Crazy Fruit,” this unique retailer can be equated to the Chinese Etsy. Though they specialize as a platform for users to sell their homemade products, FengGuo is also a great option to take your teen or pre-teen to look for some funky accessories to take with them back to school. We like this canvas Anchor Print Bag from 桔子记忆and Red Polka Dot Wallet from 海盗lulu. The majority of items are between RMB 20-60. Locations in Beijing include Raffle City and Wangfujing Yansha Mall.
If all else fails, consider buying notebooks from the vendors off the subway. That’s where I bought my last two notebooks for just RMB 15 each. Talk about cheap and convenient. Happy shopping!
Photos: lisafrankparty.tumblr, amazon.com, travelongmom.com, surfdome.com (Google Images) and courtesy of Ken