I'm an expat in Beijing and have shopped at all the markets in Beijing, Silk, Yashow, Pearl etc. I find that they are all similar in offerings and prices IF you know how to bargain and deal with a reputable shop. I have my favorites which I will get to later but first a word of warning to tourists.
While there are many reputable and very good tour guides and tour operators, many receive a commission for taking you shopping. Of course everyone suspects the tour that takes you to the jade, pearl, ceramic factory or shops and they would be right. Not only do they receive a per head fee they also receive a hefty 30% commission of sale price on top. You can see how much the price must be inflated to pay for all these fees. Many of the markets also pay the tours to stop at the markets, such as Pearl market and Yashow. If you go into a shop with the guide and the guide identifies themselves to the sellers, the bottom price you can receive will immediately be raised. The shops are pressed to pay a commission of 30% to the guide - of the SALE price not the profit. Thus the guide has no incentive to help lower the price and the shop no choice but to raise the price.
I witnessed a very illuminating situation last week at one of my favorite shops, Marie's Pearls in Silk Market, the sales girl and owner were having a heated argument with four tour guides. The essence of the long argument was that two tourists from the group had come in unaccompanied and were given a very good price for some pearls. The tour guides then came in and insisted on being paid 30%. When told that the price given was so low that no commission could be paid ( of course they don't want to alienate the tour operators), the tours guides complained that the shop charges too low a price and creates a problem for other shops as people in the tour groups of course compare purchases. they complained this was not the first time they had a problem with the Marie's charging too low a price that there was not enough margin to pay them but ALSO there was no need to give such good quality of pearl for the price. They suggested that a lower quality could be substituted so that a higher margin could be made!!!!! They warned the shop that they would be bad mouthed. This made both the owner and myself livid as these people were supposed to help tourist with advise on where to go for good deals. of course most tour guides are so unscruppulous as this but it is true that the industry standard is 30% for those guides who take a commission.
Now to the shopping, in Silk Market as mentioned I like Marie's Pearls (5th fr) you can trust them ( I was introduced to the shop by several ambassador's wives and they wholesale to shops like the Smithsonian Museum), they have other wonderful jewelry made of mother of pearl, stone and murano glass beads. Huan Huan is great for cashmere (2nd flr), there are several great silk scarf places on the third floor ( can't remember the names). I don't do the fake bag thing so can't help with that. I love small cloisonné fish, birds, etc ornaments you can buy at the shop on the third floor next to the stairs ( 25-30 RMB), the personalized hand painted fans by the man on the fourth floor by the stairs are a nice gift.
One note on Silk befor I get to some of the other markets. They have changed (or trying to change) the market. The management is trying to enforce aless aggressive sales tactics and ensure product are of a certain quality. They are doing this by penalizing shops that get reported with hefty fines. shops that have a reputation for good quality products and service are rewarded with red banners indicating the higher standard. So you can watch out for the red banners when shopping if in doubt.
Yashow, as I live near Silk, I go to Yashow only for a few things. The DVD shop on the first floor ( entrance is on the side street). They have all the latest movies and good quality. The second is Wendy's Tailor shop on the third floor. Friendly, good selection of fabrics and good workmanship. I'm very picky and have tried several other shops before settling on this one. The market is busier than Silk and if you have an image of authentic market shopping as someplace that is rundown and a little dirty, this is the place to go.
Pearl Market, I go rarely as I buy my pearls at Silk but there is one shop in the new building behind Pearl market which has some great jewelry designs at very reasonable set prices, Sherry's. Pearl market again has more of a "market feel".
At all markets bargain. It's hard to give a blanket rule as some stores will give very inflated prices but others very reasonable ones to start. In general, t-shirts 40-60ish RMB, jeans 80-100rmb, cashmere sweater 300-400ish RMB, pearls huge range very dependent on quality, as low as 80 but 300-600 will get you a reasonable to good quality round 9mm strand with silver clasp, top quality fresh water 9mm 1200rmb with gold clasp. Silk scarves cheaper ones 40-50 RMB, nicer quality 100-150RMB, ties 60-80rmb ( some cheaper ones can be had for 30 but they are not silk)
These are all ball park numbers based on the standard offerings at the stores. Of course everything depends on quality, if you have a more discerning eye, the prices will be higher....
That's it for now.
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