Shanghainese love to brag that their city is unrivalled as China's shopping paradise. This is no empty boast. No other Chinese city can claim it offers as much variety for shoppers as the retail outlets and department stores in Shanghai. Lured by the high spending power of cities along the Yangtze River, foreign retailers have moved into Shanghai in a big way. While this is welcoming to consumers, it is sobering news for domestic retailers. Until the arrival of foreign stores, the retail scene was dominated by heavyweights such as No 1 Department Store Group, Hualian Group and Friendship Group. Today they have to contend with fierce competition from retail giants from Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Europe and the United States. The battle for the consumer dollar has beneficial consequences. Shanghai's domestic retailers are gradually shedding their staid image and becoming more attentive to shoppers' needs. In the old days, customers who asked questions could be rudely told off. Then the idea of service was one of 'take it or leave it'. Today competition has broadened the vision of domestic retailers. It is not enough to do well on home ground, as foreign retail giants set their eyes on the China market by opening chain stores in cities nationwide. To raise revenue and market share, Shanghai's retail groups are also spreading their retail reputation outside the city. The Shanghai Commerce Commission says the city's retail and wholesale enterprises have set up stores in most major cities in China. Shanghai retailers tend to concentrate their outward expansion in the neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Hubei. No 1 Department Store, Hualian and Friendship have taken the lead in expansion. With two other groups, the three giants accounted for almost half of the 1.38 billion yuan (about HK$1.28 billion) invested in 236 retail and commercial projects by June. By the end of June, Shanghai retailers had raised their investments to 1.59 billion yuan in 307 projects. From all accounts, No 1 Department Store is determined to retain position as the country's biggest retailer. Not only has it taken a stake in Nextage, Asia's biggest department store, with Yaohan as the largest shareholder, it has also expanded aggressively into Anhui, Sichuan and Jilin provinces. Modelling itself after US retail chain Wal-Mart, the group wants to have about 100 stores with sales of 20 billion yuan by 2000. Competition is not only good for customers but also for retailers who rise to the challenge.