torsdag 6 december 2007

International Trade City in Yiwu, China, houses 50,000 stores

International Trade City in Yiwu, China, houses 30,000 to 50,000 stores crammed on four sprawling floors. This store specializes in Middle Eastern goods. Thousands of people from the Middle East shop — and live — in Yiwu.

It might not be surprising if this happened in a large metropolis like Beijing or Shanghai. But this particular event was in Yiwu, a small city in East China's Zhejiang Province. For a city of only 680,000 people, the prevalence of so many luxury brands made it remarkable.

Helge: I need to check the figures. Two sources give different numbers. The place is still growing. Here is a personal story from a blogger visiting the shopping center.

When visitin Zhejiang province it is worth while to visit “Yiwu Little Commodities City,” a sprawling wholesale complex that has been dubbed The Great Mall of China.Yiwu isn’t the best place to hunt for Christmas bargains. Ceilings are low and the shops are small. Merchants don’t offer free gift-wrapping; they deal in bulk and deliver by container. However, it is the largest wholesale mall in the world.

Here, thousands of vendors, competing side by side, peddle items including housewares, hairpins and hammers, garish statues of Buddha, Harley look-alike bikes and Egyptian water pipes, all at super-low prices. Buyers come seeking merchandise for small shops as well as big retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores and France-based Carrefour.

The sheer scale of Yiwu’s wholesale complex is overwhelming. Created shortly after China opened to foreign trade and investment in the 1980s, the facility has expanded over the years to encompass more than 50,000 shops.

Perhaps more remarkable is that most vendors in the market are selling goods that they make at their own factories scattered throughout the country.

Last year Supply Chain China Council wrote, "With 30,000 (50,000 now) stores crammed on four sprawling floors, International Trade City — about 200 miles south of Shanghai — is the largest wholesale mall in the world. The S-shaped building, painted orange and pale yellow, is 18 million square feet. That's the equivalent of 375 football fields."

The city’s international trade area, launched in 2001, is composed of five different marketing pavilions laid out in an S-curve meant to resemble the shape of a dragon. All told, the facility boasts 14 million square (another source says 18 million square feet) feet of shop space – the equivalent of five Malls of America.

It’s no accident that Zhejiang, where the local economy is dominated by indigenous private ventures rather than state-owned giants or foreign multinationals, has emerged as China’s richest province.

Officials boast that the market sells 400,000 different items. Of 8,000 permanent foreign residents in Yiwu, surveys suggest that 3,000 might be Middle Easterners, second only to Koreans.

Economists hail the freewheeling entrepreneurial culture of rural boomtowns like Yiwu as the most plausible alternative to China’s current development model.

Rents range from $6,000 a year for the typical 10-by-15-foot stall in a faraway spot to $60,000 for larger spaces in better locations. The stores are arranged by product categories in districts A to H, with some districts separated into a dozen "streets."

Many buyers say the quality of items at the mall is spotty. Some vendors wonder how long the mall will last, given the enormous competition and oversupply of goods.

With so many stores gathering in one place, huge amounts of business information are also gathered in Yiwu. And information is the most precious thing in modern business.It makes sure that every step in the business chain in Yiwu remains at its lowest cost while the quality gets better and better.

Zhejiang China Commodities City Group, the developer of the market, is planning to invest $600 million to nearly double the size of the mall and add tens of thousands of grocery items and other consumer goods to the center's "sea of commodities".

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