The term ‘market’ is flexible in Shanghai, however it generally applies to vendors selling virtually the same thing all under one roof, or in one open section of space. Unlike the Western sense of local competition, the Chinese believe that if everybody is selling the same thing in one area, it will draw more customers. There is seemingly a market for everything, from tailored suits and dresses to antique furniture to live insects. Most of these markets will be a different experience than anything at home, offering expats who take part in this ancient Chinese shopping tradition a rich cultural experience. Take your time in a market, scanning all of the stalls before making any purchases. Bring your bargaining skills and plenty of small denomination cash, as usually these vendors don’t deal in plastic. Be aware that crowded markets are prime hunting grounds for pickpockets.
With the exception of the South Bund Fabric Market (which is extremely popular with foreigners), clothing markets are not a particular draw for expats. Most of them are full of cheap throwaways in petite sizes and fake designer sneakers too small for most Western feet. They can, however, be a great bargain for children’s clothing, where adult sizes and style are less of an issue.
Nihong Children’s Clothing Market
If you’re seeking good value on kids’ clothing or toys, visit this market. Expats report particularly good finds for girls and babies. Some vendors sell brand-name clothing.
Corner of Pu’an Lu and Jinling Lu
South Bund Fabric Market
For many expats, the South Bund Fabric Market is one of the main places to shop for clothing. Hundreds of stalls sell bales of fabric at ridiculously low prices, from traditional Chinese and Thai silk to linen, cotton, wool and cashmere. Many shops have their own in-house tailors and they all have books (which are often made up of pages taken from Western fashion magazines) from which to pick your design. Once you’ve made your choice, staff will take your measurements on the spot, and within a few days you can return to collect your new fitted garment. This market is a favorite among businessmen looking for a new suit, overcoat or tuxedo and women looking to create an entirely new custom-fitted wardrobe. You can stock up on all manner of accessories while you’re at it, including ties, cuff links, sunglasses and belts. Prices vary greatly, but expect to pay between RMB500 and RMB3,000 for a suit. It’s worth it to order something of high quality towards the middle price range, as it will be a great deal compared to what you would pay for something similar at home. It may seem daunting trying to choose from the dizzying array of vendors. We recommend spending an hour or two browsing from shop to shop looking for someone who specialises in what you are looking for, speaks decent English and knows a bit about customer service. The best vendors have long term repeat expat customers and know how to treat them. These vendors will also ensure that the quality of the garment you receive is better than average.
399 Lujiabang Lu, by Nancang Jie
Pu’an Lu Children’s Market
Pu’an Lu Children’s Market is a mecca for parents and children seeking deals on clothing for kids, toys and accessories. There are European brands, big-name toy manufacturers and Japanese wooden toys.
10 Pu’an Lu
Hongqiao Pearl Market
You may find this is still the epitome of China’s counterfeiting culture, although it has cleaned up its act and become a much less interesting place. We’re curious to see whether this new image prevails.
3721 Hongmei Lu, by Yan’an Lu
Qipu Lu Wholesale Clothing Market
The Qipu Lu Clothing Market is not for the faint of heart. It requires stamina and some measure of fortitude to withstand the onslaught from vendors who don’t see many foreign faces, and when they do they certainly see bags of money. The numerous multi-storey buildings are crammed with clothing, shoes, accessories and fake goods priced to move. This is a great place to shop for kids’ clothing and some great deals on brand names if you have the patience. For the adventurous shopper out for the experience as much as anything else, we recommend, but perhaps with some noise-canceling headphones.
168 & 183 Qipu Lu, by Henan Bei Lu
The word ‘antique’ is loosely applied here – you may not find anything genuine among the ceramics, pocket watches, laughing Buddha statuettes and other curios you’ll see that pass as antiques, but patient shoppers can find treasures among the trinkets. Find items you like and buy them for what they are and you’ll be happy. Antiques over 100 years old require authentication from the Antiques and Relics Bureau and should be purchased from reputable stores.
Dongtai Lu Antique Market
This market can be a lot of fun if you are in the mood to wander and look at interesting and quirky trinkets sold by colourful vendors. Here you will find every kind of Mao memorabilia, old records, lanterns, porcelain, chopsticks and furniture.
Dongtai Lu, by Xizang Lu
Fuyou Antique Market
Fuyou is very crowded and lively, selling a lot of the same curios you’ll find on Dongtai Lu. Go early Sundays when vendors from the countryside haul their wares into the city. Located in Yu Garden.
Fangbang Zhong Lu, by Anren Lu