Shoppers, scalpers race for Versace line

Shoppers, scalpers race for Versace line


SHANGHAI / BEIJING - With cameras flashing and audible gasps from the waiting crowd, an impeccably dressed man stepped through the double doors. He carried three shopping bags.

It was 8:29 am on Thursday - less than half an hour after the new Versace collection had gone on sale at the H&M store in Shanghai, and almost 24 hours after the first person started to line up outside.

"I didn't have to wait so long," said the man, who declined to give his name. "I paid someone to cover the first 20 hours."

Although stingy with personal details, this shopper had been exceptionally generous with his money, having just spent about 10,000 yuan ($1,600) on gold-studded shirts and a tropical-style dress for his girlfriend. He quickly disappeared into a red BMW parked in a side street.

The arrival of the Versace for H&M line has, like previous luxury designer collections, caused frenzy among Chinese consumers. Armed with folding chairs, raincoats, instant noodles and Sony PSPs, hundreds camped overnight at stores in Shanghai and Beijing for a chance to buy the 90 new garments and accessories to go on sale.

As is now normal at launches of popular brands and gadgets, scalpers and online traders were out in force, too.

"I came with my buddies last year for the Lanvin (for H&M) collection. We got first place," Feng Bing, an experienced scalper from Shandong province, said outside H&M in Shanghai's Huaihai Road. By "buddies", he means strangers he finds on the street and pays 500 yuan to stand in line.

"It's been pretty competitive this year, so the best we can get is 25th," said the 27-year-old, as he attempted to hawk the spots occupied by his 14 "buddies" for 1,000 yuan each to passers-by.

Other shoppers waiting at stores also admitted they were planning to resell the products they had bought at the earliest opportunity.

For a middle-aged rural couple in Beijing, that was just one hour. They did not even get 15 meters from H&M's three-story shop in Qianmen Avenue before they started offloading the 11 Versace garments they had just purchased.

"They are too expensive for us, so we plan to resell them to those who didn't get in the shop at double the price," said Wang Xiang, trembling in the wind. His wife was attempting to drum up interest among passing shoppers. "If we can't sell them all, we'll return them."

After arriving at 3 am and buying the clothes at about 8 am, the couple, by 4 pm, had sold four dresses for at least 500 yuan more than the original price.

"I can see them reselling the garments, but I have no right to stop them," said a store worker keeping order at the doors. "They bought the dresses. It's their business."

Fu Xiarong, public relations manager for H&M China, said later in the day: "We increased our staff, borrowing people both from offices and stores to support the venues. And, of course, we hired a security company to make sure everything went OK."

At about 8:20 am, Jiang, who declined to give her full name, was directing a team of helpers - most of them Qianmen security personnel - as they carried about 100 garments and 10 bags to the cashier. She had bribed the guards to let her through the gates blocking the avenue before they officially open at 6 am, so that she could be at the head of the line.

"We're security here, so we can line up in front of stores when others are still waiting outside the avenue," said one helper, a uniformed man who did not give his name. "We were the first batch of shoppers to get in, but we were just doing what our team leader told us."

However, not everyone was a scalper, and the long lines were also filled with many loyal fans and fashionistas eager to add to their wardrobe options.

"I bought the Lanvin (for H&M) collection online last year, but I thought it was better to come in person this year," said a woman whose surname is Chen, 27, who had flown into Shanghai from Jinan, Shandong province. Chen declined to give her full name.

She arrived at 5 am and paid 1,500 yuan for the No 3 spot in the line. She had brought a 24-inch black suitcase with her and borrowed a white BMW to transport her new clothes, which set her back 30,000 yuan in total.

Meanwhile, a store named Germany Street on Taobao, China's largest online marketplace, on Thursday refuted a British newspaper's claims that it was selling the Versace for H&M line before its official release.

"We were only taking reservations," a salesman for the store told China Daily, without giving his name. "Our dresses are 100 percent genuine; they were purchased from stores in Germany on Monday."

(Source: China Daily)

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