I’ve just come back from my first trip to China. Shanghai was my introduction to the great continent. A whistle stop 5 days with Air New Zealand to shop and shop and oh my goodness, shop!
So cutting straight to the chase, we booked a shopping tour with a kiwi woman named Suzy Fewtrell. She moved to Shanghai when Air NZ started flying here because her husband was a pilot. They loved it so much that he left the company to stay and Suzy set up her business for western shoppers who want all the donkey work done for them.
We taxi’d to meet her with a bus and a driver at her usual pick-up point at a local Starbucks about 8.30am for a full day of shopping – which I thought might possibly be a little too long and quite probably kill me. How wrong I was and even the token male in our group went berserk and could have gone longer!
With 5 different factories, shopping centres and shops, plus lunch and transport all included for about NZ$240 per person, we trundled off first to the Fabric Market. Excitement was running high – a little Christmas Eve-ish we felt.
It was winter when we were there so the market was all about cashmere coats and suits. It was a veritable wonderland. Suzy and her team of guides have relationships with select vendors that they have worked out excellent, pre-bartered prices with and have had a NZ tailor come and check out the quality of their work. I was a bit sceptical that the prices might include a kick-back for Suzy so didn’t pay too much attention to her list of vendors at first and turned in circles like a music box ballerina and headed off in the direction of a stunning red cashmere number with a page from Vogue pinned to the front to show me how on trend it was for winter.
Thinking back now, the price wasn’t too bad (around NZ$160), but I couldn’t budge them on price so left it. In the end I found a lime green cashmere coat, fully lined and in a cape shape with buttons pulling a high neck together for about $120. I can’t wait for winter and it’s only barely summer! Suzy’s pre-arranged prices are definitely better than we non-bartery-type shoppers can get and she is also on hand to help with any bargaining that you might want to try at other vendors. She also speaks the language which is helpful when trying to negotiate.
I bought two 100% silk ties, 2 scarves, 3 pairs of cuff links, a belt and that coat for less than $200. Stoked. Back to the bus we went and compared purchases. Two of our group had coats being made overnight that were duly delivered to the hotel at 8.30am the next day, all fitted and lined.
Next we went to a place that sells gorgeous ceramics – plates, bowls, vases – but I decided my luggage didn’t need the weight. We stopped for a delicious lunch which Suzy ordered on our behalf so we could taste all the different dishes, then off we set again to the Silk Factory where the worms were being boiled and their silk cocoons unravelled by machines into fine spider-web like threads to be made into duvet and pillow fillers.
Along the chain I went and saw how they stretch the wet threads over a frame, then 4 ladies holding a corner each stretch at least 100 layers over a bed to make the duvets. I bought a king size duvet and 2 pillows which were vacuum packed for travelling for $200. Suzy said these are the most popular items her guests buy and often she is asked to send them overseas to those who wished they’d bought them on her tour.
Next stop was for antiques and collectibles. I was after a sculpture of a Chinese coin – which I eventually found in marble at the next stop. Christmas decorations were out in full force, homewares, fresh flowers and the most amazing fake flowers I’ve ever seen.
Finally it was the Pearl Market, which is a misnomer as it’s 3 floors of all kinds of jewellery, luggage, handbags and nick nacks. I spent the remainder of the contents of my wallet here on gifts galore – including some very cute chopsticks and my piece of art.
But one last story I must tell you before you stop reading and click onto another website (don’t do it!) is about the couple from Wellington who had built a new home and had a quote of $28,000 for curtains. They contacted Suzy and she sorted out which factories to take them to, so over they flew and got all their curtains made, lined and bought the tracks and tie-backs. And even including the 250kg of overweight luggage to bring it home rather than ship it, they got the whole lot for $6,000. YES they did.
So jump here to Shopping Tours Shanghai and check out the full day, half day, everything tour, curtain tour, personal tour and custom tailoring tour. It’s so worth it that I’m thinking about rounding up a few of my BFFs and going back.
And click here for Air New Zealand and see if they have any great Shanghai deals on today.