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Futuristic makeover plan to draw in more consumers to city

China Daily| Updated: February 9, 2024


People flock to a Chinese New Year-themed market on East Nanjing Road in Shanghai in January. WANG GANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Shanghai must put in place interactive, intelligent, and green consumption models as the city's efforts to build itself into an international consumer hub quickly gather pace, experts said.

The comments follow the hit television series Blossoms Shanghai by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai which has made audiences flock nostalgically to iconic commercial venues featured in the drama, including East Nanjing Road and Huanghe Road in downtown Shanghai, over the past month.

Even as traditional shopping districts such as these continue to attract visitors, Shanghai must incorporate technology into its shopping experiences and develop futuristic business models to provide novel consumption scenarios, while benchmarking itself against the world's leading consumption centers such as New York, Paris and Tokyo, they said.

"We encourage more new consumption models, such as smart, unmanned and green retail across different industries in Shanghai," said Zhang Yajun, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of Development Strategy. "New retail formats, including unmanned stores, unmanned restaurants and unmanned shelves with artificial intelligence and 5G technologies are expected to be warmly welcomed by the market."

Zhang said some world-famous cities such as Tokyo lead in unmanned retail, and this consumption format reduces costs as well as improves convenience.

"Interactive technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, can also be applied to create more immersive, personalized consumption experiences," she said.

In fact, some attempts at new consumption experiences have been made locally in recent years.

For example, certain cosmetics companies have provided over-the-counter diagnostics tests for skin and offered tailor-made skin care products to consumers, Zhang said.

Chen Jining, Party secretary of Shanghai, said during a meeting with senior executives of a Swiss luxury brand recently that being at the forefront of China's reform and opening-up and an international metropolis with deep links to the world, the municipality is accelerating its urban energy levels and core competitiveness.

"With the continuous optimization of China's consumption structure and the diversification of consumer demand, there are extensive opportunities for winwin cooperation between Shanghai and foreign-funded companies," said Chen.

"We welcome foreign-funded enterprises to promote more first stores, first products, and exhibition activities in Shanghai, lead the international consumption trend, and better integrate green and digital concepts with consumption scenarios and technology applications," he said.

Shanghai's Special Plan for Commercial Space Layout (2022-35) was released in January 2023, and aims to provide a commercial system aligned with the development goals of a modern socialist international metropolis, as well as build an international consumption center characterized by gracefulness, happiness and affordability.

The plan considers a multilayered map of commercial districts targeting different consumers.

Among them, the core Lujiazui area in eastern Shanghai is proposed to be built into a world-class landmark commercial area of high quality to gather together global consumer brands.

Hongqiao business district in western Shanghai will be another world-class commercial area in the city. It will play up the longlasting and guiding effects of the China International Import Expo and continue to function as a commercial and trade circulation center that links the Yangtze River Delta region, radiates to the entire country and faces the world.

The plan also involves 29 city-level commercial centers targeting visitors from all over the country and 45 regional-level ones targeting mainly local residents.

Some experts pointed out that Shanghai needs to further improve its internationalization while it aims to create a consumption center.

Yan Xu, an expert in economics and finance with the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, cited West Nanjing Road, the most representative international business district in Shanghai, as an example.

The per capita consumption amount there is less than one ninth of that on Fifth Avenue in New York, and the proportion of international tourists is less than one-seventh of that in Tokyo's Ginza, he said.

"If consumers buy products of international brands in Shanghai, usually they don't enjoy an advantage in price, timeliness, and their completeness," said Yan.

"Take the category of cosmetics as an example. There's still a lot to be streamlined in Customs entry, inspection, and technical review processes so that new products from around the globe can reach Chinese consumers faster," he said.

Shanghai has a profound cultural heritage, including Shikumen (lane house) culture, Bund culture, and cheongsam or qipao culture.

The city should create a clear, vivid and appealing overall image for cultural tourism, which will also promote the city's name card for shopping, said Zhao Lijia, vice-president of the Shanghai Federation of Industry and Commerce.

"While the city is doing an urban upgrade, new content can revive the old spaces to create Shanghai-style tourism complexes with the city's own cultural symbol," she said.

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