Bargains galore in World Expo's final three days

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 October, 2010, 12:00am

With just three days left before the curtain falls on Shanghai's World Expo, the gargantuan fair park is becoming a bargain-hunter's dream.

Souvenir shops, illegal trinket hawkers and even ticket touts have been desperately slashing prices over the past few weeks in a scramble to offload surplus stock - to the extent that the park is starting to resemble a huge jumble sale.

'We started reducing prices on October 1,' said Huang Shiliang at the Romania pavilion's souvenir kiosk, where most items have been cut to half price or less. 'Everybody is doing the same all over the expo park. Nobody wants to be caught with a warehouse full of unsold goods next week.

'Business hasn't been exactly fantastic recently and we still have a fair amount to get rid of. Thankfully we were careful not to import too much at one go and limited ourselves to manageable quantities.'

Around the perimeter of the park, scalpers patrol the gates, surreptitiously offering cut-price tickets to arriving visitors - starting prices are currently as low as 100 yuan, half the official value of the final week's peak-rate tickets.

Expo rules ban visitors from hawking inside the park - but that doesn't stop people trying.

'It's not so bad, I spent just under 200 yuan on them,' said one middle-aged woman after security guards confiscated dozens of tiny expo-branded toys she had tried to sneak in inside her trousers. 'Sometimes you can get through, but I wasn't so lucky today.'

The passion for discounting has even spread to official souvenir stalls. Many of the shops, which tended to have a bargain-basement feel from the outset, are now adorned with hand-written signs advertising two-for-one offers on large fluffy Haibao figurines, the expo's mis-shapen blue mascot.

'That started last week,' said one sales attendant. 'We need to get rid of them because who will want to buy a Haibao once the expo is over?'

In the vast, hangar-like African joint pavilion, there is a street market atmosphere in the trinket stalls dotted between the small national stands.

Kiddy Tesfaye, on an Ethiopian stall, said attendance had tailed off much faster than expected after last week's record-breaking visitor numbers.

'Everyone thought the final week would be the busiest, but business is not so good now,' she said. 'We speak with other traders all the time and many of them are preparing to ship a container or maybe two of unsold goods back home, or attempt to sell them off here wholesale.

'We will only have a few things left over, but we've still needed to cut many prices by more than half.'

But probably one of the fair's best bargains is in the Afghanistan pavilion - a small rented unit crammed full of souvenir stalls like a Silk Road bazaar.

The young man selling handmade Afghan carpets - who asked not to be named - said he was stuck trying to get rid of a large amount of stock, as demand had been far lower than expected. 'Chinese people don't seem to know the value of a good carpet,' he said. 'They don't know what it is for.

'We have only been selling five or six carpets a month. I have to sell at just 4,000 yuan what I should be able to sell for at least 15,000 yuan. You cannot buy these in Afghanistan for these prices.'