Silk Street, aka Silk Market or Silk Street Market, a shopping center in Chaoyang District that accommodates over 1,500 retail vendors selling everything from shoes to handbags, and chopsticks to qipaos. I’ve always preferred the silk market to other markets such as Yashow and Hongqiao. At Yashow, the vendors were often reluctant to enter into the whole spirit of hard and fast bartering. Hongqiao is great fun from a bartering point of view, but a bit of a schlep from Shunyi especially on the weekend, with the kids in tow. The silk market on the other hand is easy to get to and you can combine the trip with shopping and lunch in Sanlitun. Plus, after five years in Beijing, we’d got a rapport going with some of the silk market stallholders, which means skipping all that starting price and best price rigmarole.
So imagine my disappointment when arriving at the silk market a few weeks back and finding nearly every single stall in the basement empty. This is the floor that sells the shoes, bags, and suitcases. I was on the hunt for a suitcase for our impending summer trip to the UK, plus some sneakers for friends back home. Almost every unit was empty; cleared of shelves, stock, and the vendors themselves. In the window of each was a hand-scrawled note. I asked one of the lone vendors what was going on and she explained it was a re-fit and things would be open again in a week. Phew.
So this past weekend we arrived ready to purchase a suitcase. Whilst the market was very much open, after this latest renovation, the whole basement is completely unrecognizable. It’s more like a shopping mall, with individual shops throughout. The shops are larger than before, therefore overall there are far fewer vendors. Most of the interesting ones have closed, and with this renovation has gone the ability to bargain. There are no longer kid’s shoes, nearly all of the trainers and sneakers have disappeared, and the women’s shoes are laid out in a minimalist fashion, placed on shiny glass shelves, illuminated with mood lighting, pretending to be some kind of designer store.
As for the suitcases, it’s now down to just a couple vendors. One of which was asking RMB 4,500 for an aluminum suitcase, and they made it very clear that all prices were fixed. The other vendor was asking RMB 1,500 for a “Samsonite” suitcase, which we really wanted. When we offered our ridiculously low starting price, which used to be expected, they told us in no uncertain terms where to go. A lot of the items on sale are exactly the same stock from before the renovation, i.e. copies. In some cases these copies aren’t even that good, except now they’ve more than quadrupled the prices for them.
Silk street market refurbishment will continue floor by floor, over the coming months. I guess this is what we can expect to find when Yashow re-opens too. Incidentally, we went to Hongqiao in the end and got the very same Samsonite suitcase for RMB 300. So for us, it’s Honqiao from now on. At least until they decide to undergo a refurbishment.
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.