Shanghai is stylish. It can also be quite cheap. But let’s face it: style and budget only rare go hand in hand in our cosmopolitan city. And whether you’re dirt poor, really cheap or just plain hard on your digs, we can all agree that the only better than awesome clothing is awesome clothing that costs next to nothing.
And so, we’re taking the time to shine the spotlight on one of our favorite haunts ever since the Xiangyang Market closed down: Qipu Lu. Even in its anglicized “Qipu Road” form, this crowded shopping street a quick taxi away from People’s Square has the same timbre as “cheap-o.” If you’re too big a “cheap-o” to pay cab fare, then fear not: you can do like us and walk just twenty minutes from the East Nanjing Road metro station. After all, 20 kuai is 20 kuai and chances are you’ll be able to get a fashionable accessory – or two – for this small sum.
Once you’ve disembarked Metro Line 2, take exit 4 and hang a right onto Shanxi Road, traveling north over Suzhou Creek and for about four more blocks until you reach the western expanse of Qipu. Make another right once you see the shiny sign bearing its name and walk straight on until you see the bridge. Which bridge, you might ask? Trust us when we say you’ll know the bridge when you see it – indicators include boxes full of puppies, quadriplegics writhing around on the ground and candied strawberries on a stick, in that order.
After you’ve crossed the bridge, choose between the buildings on the north and south sides of the ‘Lu. As far as we’re concerned, anything else is a waste of time and, judging by the hordes of people in either of these five-story cubes packed full of clothing, most of Shanghai agrees with us.
Female? Plan to spend an entire day here. The majority of shops on every floor are dedicated to all your clothing, accessory and OMG SHOES! needs. There are literally hundreds of choices for every sense of style, preference of color and quality bracket – though bigger girls, both in shoe and dress sizes, might have less luck. After all, the vast majority of shoppers here are Chinese.
If you can manage to squeeze into what’s being sold here, however, the prices more than make up for lack of sizes. It’s definitely advisable to have at least conversational Mandarin ability, or to bring a friend who does. Shanghainese is ever better! If not, your ability to bargain will be limited to fighting it out with shopkeepers on their big-buttoned calculators. If you’re Western and speak decent Chinese however, they may well succumb to your demands.
Like all bargaining streets in Shanghai, the lower you start the better. And never meet them in the middle – if the seller refuses to honor your price and you walk out of their store, they will more often than not run out after you. At that point, knock another 10 or 20 kuai off the price.
QIPU LU TIPS
- HIT THE ATM: Although some of Qipu Lu’s shops bear the UnionPay logo, its mazelike arrangement makes for a lot of impulse buying
- MAKE SURE IT FITS: Pants-wise, this can be a bit compromising, especially for ladies – almost none of the shops have changing rooms and let’s be honest, no one in China bats an eye at a dude in his skivvies – but do the very best you can. For shoes, ensure that each shoe of each pair are the same size.
- COUNT YOUR CHANGE: Sellers will often try a last strategy to raise their prices
- DON’T PAY LABELS ANY MIND: This should go without saying, but nearly anything with a label on it will be fake, fake, fake and if you’re gonna buy something that isn’t really Gucci, it might as well be left blank.
- PREPARE YOUR HOME ACCORDINGLY: Most importantly, clear out some space in your closet!
When: Everyday, 9:30 – 5:30
Where: 168 Qipu Lu, near Henan Bei Lu, For Taxi: 七浦路168号，近河南北路
Nearby Metros: East Nanjing Road (Line 2); Baoshan Road (Lines 3, 4)
Photos by Robert Schrader