Watch Out, Shanghai: Qingdao Has Big Ambitions To Become China's Shopping Capital

    With sights set on a free trade zone and duty-free stores, the Northeast China city has big plans to become a prime luxury shopping destination.
    Jing Daily
    Jasmine LuAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    A night view of the Northeast China city of Qingdao, which is on its way to becoming a major tourism and shopping center. (Shutterstock)

    Nicknamed “Oriental Switzerland” since German colonization in the 19th century and recently known as the future “Hollywood of China” thanks to Dalian Wanda Group’s grand development plans, Qingdao will also soon be transformed into a mecca for luxury shopping in Northeast China.

    The Qingdao Bureau of Commerce recently confirmed its ambition to build a “one core, three rings” metropolis when it unveiled a development blueprint that translates to "Qingdao Fashion and Retail Businesses Development Plan" in early July. The master plan focuses on developing the core city—the Fushan Bay sailing destination (Chinese: 浮山湾) and the three satellite rings nearby—Tangdao Bay (Chinese: 唐岛湾) in the southwest, the Haiquan Bay hot springs resorts (Chinese: 海泉湾) in the north, and the Jinjialing new financial district (Chinese: 金家岭) in the northeast.

    Over the recent years, thanks to the rapidly growing fashion and retail market in Qingdao, a shopping strip along the Fushan, Haiquan, and Tangdao Bays has formed and now houses big-ticket shopping malls and department stores such as Haixin Square, Sunshine, Marina City, and Spring Plaza. Qingdao is now home to 200 international-branded stores, and 76 percent of the shops in Haixin Square are reportedly from international brands.

    The Bureau’s plan in Fushan Bay will emphasize commercial construction planning of the MixC, Inzone, Haixin Plaza, and Tsingtao Center to attract international businesses. Specifically, the blueprint includes the establishment of one shopping complex, four to five luxury shopping malls, one to two multi-brand boutiques, one to two upscale supermarkets, one to two duty-free shops, and one direct import store. In Tangdao Bay, development focuses will be on the Vanly Upper Class, Phoenix Island Duty-Free Shopping Center, Qingdao Free Trade Port Area, and Dalian Wanda’s Oriental Movie Metropolis. In Jinjialing, the efforts will be the opening of Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club and department stores in the district. In Haiquan Bay, the focus will be on the integration of luxury shopping and tourism, which include the operation of the China Travel Service Hong Kong Outlets, the Heaven Creation Grand Theatre, and hot spring resorts.

    The Bureau also ambitiously plans to draw examples from cities such as Zurich, Milan, London, and Dubai, according to another recently released report which roughly translates to “Implementing Regulations of Promoting Fashion and Retail Businesses Development." The report states that from now until 2020, Qingdao aims to accelerate bringing in international upscale brands, and to further form a strong fashion and retail ecosystem that radiates through the Shandong area. One important goal will be getting the nod from the government on loosening policies related to a free-trade area, duty-free shops, foreign exchange, and customs.

    Below is a translation of the summary of Qingdao’s 2020 plan:

    Retail Growth:

    Commercial Construction:

    Development and Achievements:

    • Fashion goods consumption growth reaches 18 percent between 2014 and 2016.
    • Fashion goods consumption reaches 8 billion yuan [US$1.29 billion] and accounts for 2 percent of the total retail sales of consumer goods by 2016.
    • Fashion goods consumption in Qingdao reaches an average annual growth rate of 10 percent between 2017 and 2020, and fashion goods consumption reaches 12 billion yuan [US$1.93 billion] by 2020.
    • The establishment of seven upscale department stores/shopping malls, one membership-only retail warehouse club, one to two premium outlets, two direct import stores, and two duty-free shopping centers by 2016.
    • The establishment of one additional upscale department store/shopping mall, one additional duty-free shopping center, and two fashion boutiques by 2020.
    • Establish an import distribution center based on the Free-Trade Area advantage.
    • Bring in at least 30 first- and second-tier international fashion brands between 2014 and 2016.
    • Bring in 50 additional international fashion brands by 2020; first-tier brands occupy at least 90 percent of the stores.
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