Top tips for shopping Shanghai's clothing colossus, Qipu Lu

Top tips for shopping Shanghai's clothing colossus, Qipu Lu

There are some great deals to be had in Qipu Lu, but the unprepared will be devoured. Here's how to become a shopping shifu
Qipu Lu
You might want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, or invest in a GPS, as these halls go on for miles.

The Shanghai Shaolin of shopping, Qipu Lu (aka “Cheap Street”) is a set of four multi-story clothing markets and streets packed with vendors at a small intersection in the heart of the city center.

There are impressive bargains scattered throughout Qipu Lu. But to find them one must become a master shopper. Follow the teachings of the locals and you can become a shifu of finding great deals. 

The Qipu Lu clothing markets (七浦路服装市场) are located at 168 Qipu Lu, near Sichuan Lu (七浦路179号近四川路) and generally includes the intersection of Qipu Lu and He Nan Bei Lu. By bus, take the #15 (from Huaihai Zhong Lu/Baoqing Lu) to the Haining Lu stop. It stops right at the market.

Qipu Lu massesGet your bearings: Relax and stop a moment as thousands of people pass by and then join the waves into one of the four department stores. Their names are frustratingly similar: Qipu Xingwang, Guoji Xingwang, Xing Qipu, and just plain old Qipu. They all sell clothes.

See the forest for the trees

Qipu Lu is no pirate’s lair full of knock-off Abercrombie and DKNY, but rather contains a startling variety of textiles made here in the Middle Kingdom and sold wholesale.The markets all carry similar items but some, like Qipu Xingwang, carry only women’s clothes (Xing Qipu has men’s clothes on the fifth floor).

Aim high

Mr Wu is originally from Fujian. He sells men’s jackets on the street outside Xing Qipu mall. “There are four big stores in ‘Qipu’ street,” he explains, “and in all of them the better products are on the higher floors. The higher the floor, the higher the price.”

Qipu Lu vendorMr Wu knows that shopping on the top levels is the best way to ensure quality at Qipu Lu.

See the trees for the forest

Qipu Lu is a great place to wander around. But when examining the interior market, look at the way the stalls are arranged.

A nicer arrangement of outfits will often indicate higher prices, but more assistance from the owners. The shops that are messy may have the best deals, but you might have to find them by rooting through a stack six feet deep.

Look at quality of fabric, stitching and design. Know your size or bring something of your own to match sizes since few stores have places to try items on in private.

Qipu Lu girlYour mother always said don't talk to strangers. Ms Mei assures you its okay as long as you shop inside Qipu Lu.

Know Qipu Lu inside and out

Ms Mei sells a variety of products outside Guoji Xingwang. “Don’t follow anyone waiting outside anywhere,” she advises. “The deals are all inside; no one has a secret warehouse or anything. The market is inside, that's where you should shop.”

Consider quantity

Rather than asking “how much," ask “how many." Asking the price of items in bulk will give you a better starting point in bargaining, even if you only want to buy one. Also, buying a few items can result in a sizable per-item price difference.

Qipu Lu vendorMr Wang poses a true test of a Qipu Lu shifu: If a product is made in the real factory, just after hours, is it shanzhai?

Seasonal experts

Xu Yanlei says, “We do all our shopping at Qipu Lu. The key is to buy clothes for next season or from last season. They don’t really have what’s most fashionable now, because that’s expensive.” Her boyfriend, Li Kun, adds, “I shop on the higher floors. Less work.”

Of course it’s not pirated

“Most of these clothes aren’t pirated,” explains Mr Wang. “They’re made at the real factories here in China. They’re just made at night. And not exported. So the price comes down but it’s still pretty high quality.”

Watch your back

If we were a thief, Qipu Lu is a place we’d visit very, very often. Hundreds of people milling about, both inside and out, exchanging hundreds of RMB on all sides. There is a lot of cash being exchanged. Watch that you don’t part with yours until you want to. And keep that cellphone somewhere safe.