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Black Friday: Deals and daigou outside NYC

Updated: 2015-11-30 10:38
By Hezi Jiang in Central Valley, New York (China Daily USA)

While millions of turkeys were on a dinner table or in an oven, at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day Wang Heping was on a bus.

The first-year graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington was headed to the Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets, about a one-hour drive from New York City, home to 220 designer stores with discounted prices.

Wang booked the bus ticket three weeks in advance when she and two friends decided to spend their first Thanksgiving in the US in New York City. However, it was not her first time at Woodbury; she was there on Labor Day, a month after she arrived in America.

 Black Friday: Deals and daigou outside NYC

Chinese shoppers check their e-mail while taking a break at the Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets on Black Friday. Hezi Jiang / China Daily

Wang's shopping spree began that night and went to about 3 am the next day, Black Friday.

The discounts were way better on Black Friday than on Labor Day, she said, and there were more styles to choose from. "However, those Chinese Daigou were very aggressive," Wang said as she was recovering from hours of walking and standing in lines.

Daigou is the Chinese name - translated roughly into "buying on behalf" in English - for overseas shoppers who seek high-end items for customers back home. Though Chinese customs is cracking down on their illegal businesses with large fines, it does not seem to be slowing them down.

"I was in the first group when Kate Spade opened," said Wang, who loves the New York-based fashion brand. "I was deciding which color to get for my favorite bag when a daigou came and immediately took all the black ones off the shelf, and asked the salesperson, 'Do you have more in this color?'"

The daigou ended up taking all the black bags of that style. Wang had to compromise for the pink.

For a daigou in the US, Black Friday is the biggest day of the year. They get orders beforehand and do real-time selling on Chinese social media, such as Wechat and Weibo.

Shao Sirui, a master's degree student at Columbia University and a graduate of the University of Alabama, is accustomed to the sales and crowds of shoppers on Black Friday. For the four Thanksgivings she has been in the US, she has shopped at a mall and three different outlets - The Outlet Shops of Grand River in Alabama, San Marcos Outlets in Texas, and this time, Woodbury Commons.

She and her two friends booked a room for Thanksgiving night at a hotel near Woodbury so they could have a place to rest between rounds of shopping. They brought large empty suitcases that would be filled with their purchases.

"I did both online and brick-and-mortar shopping, depending on the brands," said Shao. "For example, Coach did not have many discounts online, but at their outlet store you could find some really good deals. Also, it's nice to touch the goods and try things on."

Woodbury has become a major shopping experience for Chinese and other Asian visitors. Signs in Chinese can be seen in almost every store, and many of them have Mandarin-speaking staff. On Black Friday, more than half of the shoppers in stores selling luxury brands were Chinese. Fitting rooms in the Burberry store that morning were closed to speed up purchases.

Zhang held a large pile of clothes for her friend, who was trying on a pair of leather pants outside of her own pants. They fit, so she took the pants and two coats to the checkout.

Zhang, who asked that her first name not be disclosed, and her friend were part of a 19-person tour group from Northeastern China's Heilongjiang province. They had been to Hawaii, California, and Washington state, and arrived in New York to join the holiday shopping spree.

The entire group spent all of Thanksgiving Day at Woodbury and Zhang and five others returned on Friday. "We spent a lot of money yesterday," said Zhang happily. "Still got a lot of things to buy. Spending money makes us happy because everything is so cheap here. The more we spend, the more we save."

Tours For Fun, a California and Sichuan-based travel service offers packages for Chinese to travel abroad. It created 10 Black Friday-themed shopping tours to five major outlets in the US.

"Black Friday is very big for us this year," said Maxwell Sun, the company's chief marketing officer. "Because of the terrorist attacks in Paris and around, many have exchanged their tours to Europe for the United States."

He said that due to the cheaper traveling costs and the convenience of 10-year travel visas, more people prefer traveling to shop rather than buying from a daigou or e-commerce platform.

"According to our survey, shopping is the No 1 reason for Chinese to go on overseas trips," said Sun.

Tours For Fun sent more than 1,000 Chinese tourists to outlets on the last Thanksgiving weekend, and this year he said they expected to sent more than 2,000.

"In the past, it's just Chinese from first and second-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and now people from smaller cities are all traveling. It's growing so fast," said Sun.

Leo Lu, a graduate student from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, traveled to New York to visit his friends for the holiday. He managed to get to Woodbury where he bought a Bottega Veneta wallet.

"When I asked my friend in Chinese if another wallet was too big, a salesman behind us said, 'Tai Da Le (too big),'" Lu laughed.


(China Daily USA 11/30/2015 page1)

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