Dec 2, 2010

Value for money: No frills mall

Ajman : It's new, does not boast well-known brands or fancy interiors.

Why, it does not even have a food court or a cinema. But still the China Mall in Ajman is always choc-a-bloc with shoppers.

The reason? Bargain prices.

Forget food court or cinema - the mall does not even have benches to sit on. But still, this bare and basic mall is pulling in the crowds from Ajman, Sharjah and even Dubai. Customers say they shop here for one reason only - rock-bottom prices.

Prices of T-shirts here start at Dh5, while mobile phones cost around Dh150. Microwave meals can be had for as low as Dh4, while lingerie goes for just around Dh15.

As if that's not enough, shoppers haggle for even further discounts on anything and everything ranging from furniture, toys and electronics, to clothes and hardware - there are no fixed prices.

Traditional market

Visitors also find it easy to hunt for deals as the shops are arranged back-to-back in rows at the single-storey mall. The layout keeps competition tight between retailers which benefits customers.

"It's more like a traditional market, but disguised as a modern mall," a Jordanian woman said.

"Sales people jump out at you from stores with goods in hand. It's very informal and you can negotiate prices - I'm good at that, so that's why I come here."

She said that her husband recently bought her a hair curler from the mall for Dh25 - compared to a Dh200 model she had purchased from a Dubai mall earlier. She also picked up a "beautiful" Dh180 cellphone for her maid from the mall.

A six-piece bedcover set originally quoted at Dh95 to one customer, was promptly re-offered to another shopper for Dh80 after a moment's silence — and a frown from the original customer. Another shopper, an Indian grandfather from Sharjah, said he had been waiting for the official mall opening (October 22) ever since he saw a "giant billboard" proclaiming its opening on the Sharjah-Dubai highway some months ago.

"China means cheap - and that's what shoppers today are looking for," he said. "You have to be practical; I don't buy stuff just for the image, just because something is branded internationally."

Made in china

Almost all products there are made in China and shopkeepers also hail from the Land of the Dragon. Even if they are in no mood to haggle, they will still quote two prices — the initial bid and "last price".

The shopping plaza takes window shopping to a new level, with identical storefronts made entirely of glass. The rows too are near copies of each other and there are no landmarks to remember your way around. "You just keep hopping from shop to shop until you complete the ‘maze'," the Jordanian woman said.

Meanwhile, new road signs for China Mall - located in Ajman Free

Zone - have sprung up across the emirate in recent weeks announcing the opening of this mini version of Dubai's Dragon Mart, a much older and larger Chinese market.

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