It’s the end of an era. Effective from December 31, the famous Yashow clothing market will empty its stalls and shutter its doors to make way for a wave of renovations that will put the beloved tourist attraction on par with the rest of its glitzy Sanlitun neighbours.
The market, which opened 12 years ago and has remained virtually untouched since, is home to some 700 shops, selling everything from clothing to telescope equipment. Shop owners were told the renovations would see needed repairs to pipes and bathrooms, as well as significantly increasing the size of stalls. This upgrade won’t come free though, with merchants told to expect sizeable hikes in rental rates after the three-month closure.
Yashow tenants like Amy, a jewellery store owner who opened her shop just over a year ago, haven’t been told how much their new rents will be but expect it to be three to four times higher than at present. She’s undecided if she’ll return at that price, as business hasn’t been good enough of late. ‘There aren’t as many customers as before, maybe because foreigners aren’t coming to Beijing or they’ve found a different market. The extra space will not make enough difference for some people.’
Chopstick vendor Zou Wei has operated his business out of Yashow since its doors opened in 2002. While he has a strong attachment to the marketplace, he says he runs another shop and is unsure if he’ll be able to afford the new rent. ‘I think many shop owners don’t know their decision yet; it’s probably half-half how many will stay or go.’
While the proposed changes could mean bad news for many shop owners, the rush to liquidate inventory has meant cut-rate prices for bargain-hungry shoppers. Flip, a 27-year-old management consultant, took advantage of the clearance sale frenzy to grab several last-minute Christmas presents, including a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book. When asked what impact the closure will have on him he answers, ‘My mom definitely has that much less of a reason to come visit me in Beijing again.’