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Silk Street Market Tidies up Its Image

Jul. 13, 2007

Silk Street Market, a popular shopping destination for tourists and the frequent target of intellectual property rights (IPR) disputes, is hoping a wave of a stall closures will help it shed its image as a haven for counterfeit goods.

More than 150 booths selling fake brand name goods - involving everything from ties and silk scarves to kids' clothes - were cleared out in a month-long house-cleaning campaign initiated by the market's operator.

"The move is part of our commitment to doing business while protecting IPR," said Wang Zili, general manager of the Beijing Silk Street Garment Market Co.

Having rid itself of the questionable vendors, the market presented a new look to shoppers yesterday, featuring century-old silk brands like Ruifuxiang, Qianxiangyi, Shengxifu and Neiliansheng.

The market unveiled a museum of silk-making machines.

"The finer things do not come cheap - we paid about 5 million yuan ($658,000) for the clean-up effort," said Wang.

Displaced vendors got 30,000 yuan in compensation for the sudden termination of their contracts. The sum is equivalent to what the vendors paid two years ago to set up shop within the market.

Wang said the 5 million yuan had been taken from the market's IPR fund, which amounts to about 30 million yuan.

The decision to replace the questionable vendors with those selling famous domestic brands, which generally are sold at fixed prices, will not affect the market's distinctive bargaining culture, the operator said.

"The willingness of the big names to be flexible on price came in exchange for easy access to the market and preferential rents. That's our deal," said Wang, adding that most tourists come for enjoying the fun for bargaining.

Andrew Healey, a businessman from England was trying on a melon-red silk robe.

"This is for my wife, who is the same size as I am," he said, admitting that he knew nothing about the quality of the silk but enjoyed bargaining and joking with the sales girl.

A quick check by China Daily revealed that goods bearing brand names such as Coach, Gucci, Nike and Polo were still available to insistent shoppers.

The Silk Street Market is one of the capital's key commercial-cultural areas and regularly benefits from major events held in Beijing.

During the China-Africa summit last November, when throngs of political and business leaders flooded into Beijing, the market earned 1.3 million yuan from African clients in just five days.

(China Daily Jul. 13, 2007)

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