Amid Games, British economy gets gold from Chinese

By Tong Li Source:Global Times Published: 2012-8-10 19:30:03

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina
Illustrations: Peter C. Espina

It is reported that there are thousands of Chinese journalists covering the Olympic Games in London. Besides the Olympic Park, there's another place where I have seen most of my Chinese colleagues.

It is Bicester Village in Oxfordshire, only an hour's drive from London. It is home to over 130 designer outlet stores set around delightful open-air, pedestrian-friendly paths.

Chinese are said to have the biggest appetite for luxury goods in the world, and I have no doubt about it, because I myself love to splurge on them, as long as I have money.

I went to Bicester Village last week, and was not surprised to find that nearly 80 percent of visitors there were Chinese. But I was a little amazed to see many Chinese reporters whom I had seen in the Olympic Park.

When I walked around one store, two Chinese women made remarks about every handbag displayed near me. I could see their glaring eyes. I recognized them as journalists from a domestic TV station.

There were some Putonghua-speaking floor-walkers to guide Chinese customers. A display case featuring £18,000 ($28,151) diamond-encrusted watches seemed to have been designed to catch the attention of Chinese shoppers.

It reminded me of some extraordinary scenes from Boxing Day sales in London when I studied in the UK in 2010. Were it not for the occasional red double-decker in the streets, this might have been Shanghai or Hong Kong.

I heard that some Chinese reporters, especially women, had already been working themselves into a shopping frenzy ahead of the Olympic Games.

No matter how ordinary looking they are on TV, they must have a heart that embraces luxury goods.

Talking about Chinese people's craze over luxury goods does not shield the fact of China's economic boom. A decade ago, China was barely on the retail radar in foreign countries. But it's quite a different story nowadays.

Another reason why the change is so visible on the international stage is that the goods are considerably cheaper in cities like London than at home. Chinese don't have to be especially wealthy if they want to buy luxury goods abroad. One can save up to 30 percent by buying tax-free in London rather than paying sales tax at home.

The summer sale calendar this year doesn't suit the Olympic Games cycle perfectly. The peak for summer sales has already gone, and those that were left in Bicester Village were really not that appealing. 

However, Chinese journalists still purchased various Mulberry, Gucci, Burberry and Prada products. They saved a lot of money because they had spent a lot.

It seems that many Chinese journalists were lured to Britain not by the Olympic Games. Nor are we interested in traditional English breakfast or the Tower of London. We came in search of just one thing: luxury goods.

When I talked to my friends about what I had seen in the shopping area, they asked me, "Weren't you supposed to go to report on the Olympics? Shouldn't you journalists prepare for the reporting of the next game even when you are free?"

Well, don't be too hard on us. We are Chinese, and our interest in luxury goods is always with us. It has been reported that Chinese shoppers have outspent others by an astonishing figure during the Olympic Games.

No matter what, we have brought hope for the grim British economy.

The author is a reporter with Hubei Broadcast and Television Station. She's currently in London to report on the Olympic Games.


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