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Dependent on where you live, you may know of these as popup stores, car boot sales, fete or jumble sales. Lets look at the China version.
With the exception of Popup Stores – which we will come to in a mo – the other terms generally indicate the sale of goods, used or just unwanted, by individual owners.
Garage sales are a similar form of individual commerce. Perhaps a family is moving overseas or disposing of an elderly relatives belongs. Often here one can find a good buy on things such freezers, washing machines as well as beds and small kitchen appliances and bric-a-brac.
Pop up stores tend to be operated on an enterprise level, “fixed” establishments that exist for a defined, predetermined, short time. Many Brands use this platform to introduce a new product – capitalising on the “Limited Time Offer” fear.
In China, Popup Stores maybe an army of canvas marquees set up on a part of a car park or vacant lot. Or they may be located in a traditional Brick and Mortar Store (B&M) that has been vacated by its previous tenant. The landlord sees an opportunity for a short term income.
China Car Boot Selling
Today’s post however looks at another side of this, which may or may not be unique to China. What in English we might call a “car boot sale” but in China they use the US version of trunk. With a twist. And no, it has nothing to do with elephants.
Let’s look at some the things that set Chinese car boot sales apart. Firstly, we are using the term CAR fairly generically. Vehicle might be better as some enterprising merchants are using SUV’s, MPV’s and small vans for their “Portable Shop Front.”
Secondly, ironically there is nothing second hand or used about the goods being sold. They are either sourced direct from a friend or relative’s factory or physical store. Covid and unfriendly weather has seen China consumption sales drop, so this is a way to help out friends etc as well as make some personal cash.
Popular items seem to be mobile phone accessories, stuffed toys, clothing, shoes, hair decorations, art / craft gifts – most things that can be easily packed in a box and stowed in a vehicle.
Others have taken it a step further with outdoor seating and lighting, cooking everything from the tasty Xinjiang Uygher “keebab,” 烤肉 (kăo ròu) or lamb on a stick cooked over hot coals. Surf and turf is not forgotten either, choose from grilled fish or steak complete with beer or wine.
The latter may invoke fond memories for those of you who have travelled China, esp Beijing where road side food merchants would compete for trade with everything from roasted nuts, to pancakes to Bar BQ. Metres and metres, rows apon rows of stalls, decorated with little coloured lights. The evening air heavy with the tantalising aroma of yeasty bread to fried meat.
With many vendors dressed in their local costume, it was a step back into Chinese history. Sadly for Beijinger’s, Government decided that traditional China was not what they wanted visitors to their hi-tech 2008 Olympic Games to see or remember.
Perhaps they were also mindful of negative publicity should any overseas visitor develop a sever case of food poisoning or dysentery. Consequently, along with the razing of centuries old traditional Hutongs, many street sellers were cleaned off the streets.
One of their less than clever town planning moves. Many other cities followed Beijing’s lead in taking the “Unhealthy Mobile Food Carts” off the street. A part of China died back then.
Although today Beijing and it’s surrounding suburbs or “Districts” still keep a tight rein on street sellers, thankfully some of the other provinces are easing up.
Refresh your knowledge of Beijing Districts here:
What began a few months ago as a few ground breaking, young entrepreneurs has exploded into literally hundreds of “Car Shops” presenting a new, exciting element to Chinese consumers shopping experience.
We hope Beijing is taking note, and, to use the party jargon: “reflecting on their past errors and correct their wrong thinking~” Time to come back to your roots Beijing, smell the coffee and roast meat.
Realise that consumers today, post Covid, have had enough of working, shopping from home. Are over Big Tech’s obscenely grandiose, over hyped mega online shopping festivals. We want to get out, relax, savour the the association of fellow humans. A degree of risk is inherent to the human spirit. We have lived with Covid, a small tummy ache by comparison is a small price to pay for a taste of culture.
Look at making this a part of the “Stimuli Packages” being rolled out to boost the economy and domestic spending. We are now striding with positive optimism towards 2023 – a Brave New World awaits.
Take a look at China’s burgeoning Car Boot micro industry, courtesy of Caixin Global, a free and safe link: Retail Gets a Summer Spin.
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