A blast from the past - Beijing neighborhood markets

For some a relic of the past, the neighborhood markets today are still a thriving place of business where people get their fresh produce daily. Your ordinary market setup is about 70% fruit and vegetables, 20% fish, meats and other ingredients and, finally, 10% daily use items ranging from batteries to plastic tubs. Given the advent of the supermarket chains, both domestic and international, it seems like a small miracle that people still flock to the markets in droves. Perhaps it is due to their Stalinist charm or the fact that you have known your vendors for ages but they are a neighborhood mainstay and there for you to enjoy.

A busy, busy place

A busy, busy place

Going head to head with Wal-mart

The truth is that the neighborhood markets are engaged in a fierce competition battle with domestic and international supermarket chains. At times, those supermarkets sport offers that the ordinary markets would never be able to beat given the supply chain efficiency that make a supermarket so super. I remember Chinese cabbage going for 1.9 a pound and people queuing for hours to get their hands on them. These products are probably loss-leaders but, in theory, should induce customers to also buy all else at the same place for reasons of convenience. But Chinese (at least the elder generations that do most of the shopping) do not necessarily look for convenience and so I saw many a customer walking out with tons of cabbage and nothing else. In your face, western business studies.


Giving the Walmart juggernaut a run for its money

The actual raison-d'etre

Apart from offering fairly priced and tasty produce, the markets offer a great platform to hear the latest gossip. This should not be reduced to who is getting married to whom but decisions where the next real estate development could be going up, the government is planning electricity subsidies or which restaurant sells the best roast chicken. It is, in other words, a place to see people and to be seen. Not like the lobby of a five star hotel but with a similar dynamic and logic.


Buy fresh vegetables and be the first to know

Useful Chinese words