Shanghai: "What is lacking is middle-class retail stores"
Interview with Klaus Striebich, Managing Director ECE
Klaus Striebich talks about his experiences with Shanghai's retail sector
EHI: Mr Striebich, you were a speaker at the International Retail Forum of C-star in Shanghai. You also had the opportunity to take a good look at the city and numerous shopping centres. What caught your eye?
Striebich: I must admit that I did expect to see a big city, but one with, on the whole, simple amenities. My expectations regarding the furnishings and equipment of the retail properties also were rather subdued. But then I was very surprised at the modern and professional way in which the city and its retail businesses present themselves. The infrastructure is very well developed. The road and rail systems are in top condition and set a very high standard. Everything is very clean and well kept; you find beautiful floral arrangements even along the major thoroughfares.
It appears that people here live a very decent life; they are very well dressed; nearly everyone has a mobile phone, and in many cases even high-end vehicles. Interestingly, people are online almost constantly. The mobile phone is always in use.
People are very open towards Europeans. Everywhere I went I got a friendly reception and never had the feeling of being an outsider. Communication, however, is very difficult. Hardly anyone there speaks English.
EHI: How did you experience Shanghai's retail sector?
Striebich: Here I observed a strong polarization. On the one hand, you have absolutely luxury-class stores and malls, well above the European standard; on the other hand, much of retailing still takes place in Shanghai under an open sky or in very simple covered markets. What is lacking is middle-class retail stores. There is still much catching up to do in this area.
EHI:How do the malls differ from those in Europe?
Striebich: Particularly fashions and restaurants meet a very high standard. These sectors dominate in almost all shopping centres. Hard goods is an area in which much is lacking, however. Books, giftware, home textiles, toys. These product ranges often are not represented. Also conspicuous is that there are many restaurants, but no conventional food courts. There are also differences between the anchor tenants: there are only a few large department stores that can serve the purpose. Which is why the luxury stores of the monobrands often play this part.
EHI: Do you still see a need for improvement at the centres?
Striebich: In principle the shopping centres in Shanghai are very well done. There is hardly a way in which the architecture might be improved. However, customer flow management often is not up to European standards. Escalators often are not made to run in a customer-friendly way, and routing with customer guidance systems is capable of improvement in most cases.
EHI: What did you like in particular?
Striebich: As for the malls, one should definitely have a look at Plaza 66, IAPM and the IFC mall. They are all very upmarket, and the look and the product and service offering are impressive. As for the retail stores, I found Shang Xia particularly impressive. It sells handmade products in exciting surroundings. Porcelain, fabrics, furniture and accessories are on offer there. This store, located on Middle Huai Hai Road, is absolutely worth seeing.
EHI: What can we learn?
Striebich: The restaurant concepts often are better than in this part of the world. Anyone searching for unusual Asian restaurants definitely should look around there. The service orientation is partly also very good. Customer toilets on every floor are the absolute standard.