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Beijing’s Silk Street eyes upmarket transition

Wang Xiaodong
Updated: Mar 20,2015 8:13 AM     China Daily

Shoppers look over silk products at a store in the Silk Street market in Beijing on March 19.[Photo/China Daily]

Popular shopping mall plans to rebrand itself as seller of high-end goods and services

Beijing’s famous Silk Street market plans to discard its image as a mixed-bag shopping paradise and transform itself into a top high-end market.

Silk Street announced on March 19 that it will close all shops that continue to sell poor quality goods or provide bad service and introduce higher-end businesses, including designer clothing and self-owned brands, developing into a high-end shopping place that can compete with shopping malls of international standards.

Located in Beijing’s largest business and embassy area, Silk Street sells a variety of products, but focuses mostly on clothing. It has become the most popular shopping place for foreigners in Beijing, and has welcomed foreign dignitaries such as Jacques Chirac, former president of France, and former United States president George H.W. Bush.

However, like other markets in Beijing, some of the shops in the market rely on fake or pirated goods, and were even hit by lawsuits over intellectual property violations for selling fake top-brand goods.

“We will thoroughly reconstruct the business in Silk Street and change our ‘genes’ to dispose of substandard goods at any cost,” Zhang Yongping, chairman of Beijing Silk Street Co, said on March 19 at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the reopening of the market at a new building.

The market has had seven rounds of renewal since the new building opened, such as enlarging the area for individual shops from less than five square meters to more than 12 square meters, but it failed to eliminate substandard goods and bad service in some shops, said Zhang Teng, planning department manger of Beijing Silk Street Co.

“The business environment is important,” he said. “If some shops in a market exclusively sell fake products, some other shops may copy them and real high-end business will never open shops here.”

All of the more than 800 shops will have to sell products and provide services that suit the overall planning of the market after the upgrade is complete by the end of the year, Zhang said.

The upgrade also suits the Beijing government’s policy to upgrade its economic structure and develop high-end services, Zhang said.

“Such markets either have to upgrade or move out of Beijing,” he said.

Jin Wenbiao, who has sold tea and teapots in the market for 10 years, said he is not surprised to hear about the upgrading.

“In the past several years, I have kept upgrading my business following market changes,” he said.

He said he has been selling better quality tea and teapots in recent years with the rising demand of customers.

Customers also care more about service as Chinese are becoming more affluent, he said.

“In the past most of my customers were foreigners, but now half of them are Chinese and the number of Chinese customers is increasing,” he said.

“The days when you make money with a one-shot deal are gone,” he said. “We must try to win their hearts.”

Inigo Godoy, a businessman from Britain, said he would like to visit the market again in the future.

“I think I will visit the market again if it sells high-end original Chinese products,” he said.

“But I may not buy foreign-brand goods here, as they are cheaper in their original place of production.”

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