Tuesday, February 23, 2010

China's empty malls

It always struck me as odd that all of the leading luxury goods makers - whose products were being copied and mass produced in China before ending up on Canal St. for $50 - were rushing to bring their $3,000 handbags to Beijing. I've never been to Beijing or Shanghai, but I found this observation from The Peking Duck blog pretty interesting...

"Anyone who’s walked around Shanghai’s more prosperous areas (and Beijing’s as well) is well familiar with the glut of luxury stores, with Bulgari and Gucci boutiques everywhere you look. I would sometimes stand outside the shops and watch for as long as half an hour and I remember seeing the shopkeepers going to fantastic lengths to look busy. One of them kept dusting the shelves obsessively. Another kept a book (or maybe a magazine) discreetly under the counter, at an angle where she could read while keeping an eye on the front door."

It seems silly that a country that has spent the past 40 years counterfeiting their way to prosperity would suddenly decide "You know I'd rather spend 3 years salary on a pocketbook so I can get the little certificate of authenticity card" instead of buying a knock-off of the same bag for $10 in a back alley. Also, from The Peking Duck....

"The Place (a mall) is around the corner from my office, and this was my first trip back in about two months, I was shocked at what I saw. Fifty percent of the eateries in the basement were boarded up. The cheap food court, too, was gone, covered up with ugly blue boarding, making the basement especially grim and dreary. The two good restaurants there, Ganges and Master Kong Chef’s, were still thriving. The few others that remained seemed to be just hanging on.

That same night I went by The Village, which seemed so cool when it first arrived and now seems so unnecessary aside from the Apple store and a couple of restaurants. Same thing as The Place: lonely clerks looking plaintively out the store windows, eyes begging you to come in and buy something. But no one does. There is simply too much stuff, too many stores, and no buyers. Do you have to be a rocket scientist to conclude this is unsustainable?

I’m predicting The Place and many of its sister ghost malls, shunned by customers overwhelmed by so many malls to choose from, each selling the same crap that no one can afford nowadays, are going to experience a catastrophe."

On a much smaller scale - I didn't see the story when it originally broke back in November but there is a little retail swap going on in Watertown. It looks like Michael's (small arts & crafts store) is movin' on up to the new Towne Center - home of Target, Old Navy, etc. I bet that Michael's got a sweet deal on the lease because there is a ton of brand new empty commercial space in that area. I suppose it makes sense - Michael's shoppers have more in common with Old Navy, BBBY, Target and Petco shoppers than Herb Philipson, Staples and $ Store shoppers.

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Quote of the day from a charter school founder in Harlem --“I had five core things in mind for my kids, and that’s what I want for our students.”

“I wanted them to be wholesome in character.

I wanted them to be compassionate and to see life as a responsibility to give something to the world.

I wanted them to have a sophisticated intellect.

I wanted them to be avid readers, the kind of person who always has trouble putting a book down.

And I raised them to be independent thinkers, to lead reflective and meaningful lives.”

Wow, imagine a world where all parents aimed to achieve these goals with their children.

Cheers!

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