In this part info on baby shopping in Beijing, real shops, second hand gear as well as Taobao and other online experiences.
So, all of the baby stuff we buy overseas is made in China, so things must be much cheaper here in Beijing, right? Alas, the answer is yes and no. Yes, you can buy a lot of knockoff and fakes. Sometimes these are comparable to the overseas products, but you can’t really be sure.
Cheaper in Beijing: There are also many things for which you may not need top quality, so those you can find cheap (eg clothes rack). It is also cheaper than back home to have something tailormade, like extra covers for your nursing pillow (depending on your bargaining skills). And brand diapers like Pampers and Huggies are cheaper than back home.
If you buy the real deal, imported goods, expect to pay more than you would back home. Several foreign chains such as Mothercare have opened up in the capital recently. Foreign companies have to pay extra taxes and both Chinese and foreign parents seem willing to pay up for “safe” products. And let’s not start about the milkpower- overpriced craziness. But you want “the best for your baby” don’t you?
What to bring from back home?
As said, while you can source pretty much anything here, it is sometimes cheaper or easier getting items from abroad. If you have the opportunity to go back home during your pregnancy, or have friends visiting, these are some baby necessities you can consider getting there:
– maternity wear: slowly more is becoming available locally, but stylish stuff (ie not with Winnie the Pooh or other cartoon characters on it) can be pricey.
– anything your baby puts in her mouth– bottles, pacifiers, teethers and the like. Safe overseas products are just very expensive here.
– breast pump– if you plan on breastfeeding. Available, but eg Medela is even more expensive here than in Europe or the US. You can also consider buying one second hand (see below).
– milk powder– as a back up or because you plan to bottle feed, bringing from overseas is a good idea. Before giving birth I asked visitors and friends to bring me boxes so I had a few boxes lined up in case breastfeeding wouldn’t work out. You can always give them away or sell them if you do not use them.
– prenatal multivitamin pills and vitamin D drops: you and your baby will use these drops and pills daily and the international hospitals sell them at a premium. You can probably also get them from your local Beijing pharmacy, I haven’t tried as I got these from back home.
– specific baby care items: perhaps you (subconciously) have a preference for a specific brand of diaper rash cream or baby oil. Usually one pot or tube will last for a long time and doesn’t take up much luggage space.
– babymonitor: this is not so well known in China.
Two new malls, Solana on the northwest side of Chaoyang Park and to a lesser extent Indigo Mall in Lido, have baby shops with imported baby gear such as Mothercare and Motherworks (Solana) and Gap and Counting Sheep (Indigo). Counting Sheep has another branch just accross from Worker’s Stadium North Gate, it mostly sells toys, gifts etc. In Solana there is also a large Lijia Baby, the leading Chinese/Korean baby store, slightly to much cheaper than the others depending on what you buy. Lijia is all over town, eg also in Viva Mall in Shuangjing. For baby clothes also check out your local Gap, Zara or H&M as several have baby clothes departments. The Place mall in CBD has a Obaibi and Chicco store on 5th floor (and a kids play zone). Yashow Market in Sanlitun also has baby clothes (bargain hard). Babygro has a great website with home delivery and a store in Shunyi. Their Sono Vaso maternity brand is fashionable, suitable for working expectant mums and they also have dresses for Mum with a party to attend, oh and I absolutely adore the Paper Tiger gift wrap they sell. The most recent addition to Beijing babyland is Baby International’s new flagship store around the corner from Beijing United Family Hospital. It has a stroller track where you can try out different brands such as Bugaboo and Phil and Ted’s prams. Swedish favourite IKEA has a massive store next to the East Fourth Ring Road and is great for decent quality reasonably priced furniture (cots and changing tables), storage boxes etc.
For general stuff such as diapers, laundry racks etc try Walmart, Carrefour or other large supermarkets.
A mention on airpurifiers and water filters: the downside of living in Beijing:( you will likely consider getting these if you do not have them yet. For information on airpurifier brands check out Beijing based American Doctor St Cyrs blog My Health Beijing. IQ Air (very expensive), Blue Air (a little less expensive but still expensive) and Alen Air are all quality brands. VogMask sells masks that are suitable for babies. Some people have an air purifier in their stroller (but probably you want to keep your baby indoors on bad air days).
Second hand items:
If you do not have a large budget or think it is unnecessary to buy everything new, many good quality second hand items like IKEA cots, Medela breast pumps, Bugaboo strollers, Maxicosi car seats, bags of baby clothes, “What to Expect” books and second hand airpurifiers can be sourced through the wonderful Beijing Mama’s Yahoo Group or (to a lesser extent) Shunyi based charity shop Roundabout.
Some tips for buying from Beijing Mama’s: ask for pictures of items, as you don’t want to go accross town and find a cot to find that the baby chewed the paint from the top rail. Ask where they are based if they don’t mention it, Beijing is a large city and is it really worthwhile spending 2 hours in the taxi for two maternity tops? Prices are often negotiable, especially if you buy multiple items. Email sellers offline or call them for information. You can also put out a request for items, but there it also helps to be specific (what you look for (eg brand, size).
Roundabout will also take (and may pick up) second hand items in good shape. So if you are making room for the baby and have to get rid of a desk, contact them.
As you get less mobile with a growing belly or with your newborn, online shopping is a good alternative. It is also a good place to find items you cannot find elsewhere.
Amazon.cn and JD.com are reliable and competitively priced sources for e.g. diapers, electronics (eg blood pressure monitor). Delivery is usually fast, diapers generally arrive the next day It is also possible to order Cash on Delivery.
Taobao is China’s number one retail place, and I’m a fan. However, quality between shops varies greatly, so take care when buying and don’t buy anything too expensive or fragile. It has everything you can imagine. For example, I bought an Eames style rocking chair, bamboo swaddle blankets, organic newborn hats, toy bags and clothes. Shops in the so-called TMall part of Taobao sell better quality goods. Taobao lets you track logistics and delivery costs for small items are often only 10 kuai, regardless of where they come from in China.
The Taobao Field Guide is a great resource to get you started on Taobao, but here’s some of my own Taobao strategies:
10 Tips How to use Taobao succesfully:
- Google Chrome is your friend: the automatic translation of Google Chrome is not perfect, but it does the trick for understanding the general meaning.
- Google Translate is your other friend: my search for items usually starts in Google Translate. I type in what I’m looking for and then copy paste it into Taobao. Of course, sometimes the wrong characters come up, then I keep trying with other terms or brands (see below).
- Microsoft is still your pengyou too: somehow Google Chrome does not display security codes correctly, so I use good ole Internet Explorer for checkout.
- Brands rule: when looking for general or specific items it can help to just enter a brand that makes those items, eg Baby Gap or Carter’s for baby clothes, or Lamaze for toys. Tons of products will show up, real or so-cheap-it-must-be-fake.
- Reconsider short supply: items that are labeled “short supply” in your shopping cart, you may want to give a miss, unless your Chinese is reasonable or you have an ayi at hand. The vendor might call you to discuss the options and it might get very confusing.
- Use the favourite function: (the star) trust me, if you don’t buy it now (see my next tip), don’t save it in your shopping cart, but save it as a favourite. You can even make categories of favourites but I’ve never bothered.
- Keep an eye out for special offers: somedays the Chinese internet goes crazy. For example on 1-11 the national singles day (! yes really), on Chinese Valentines day (somewhere in August) or other days. Special promotions such as huge discounts or free shipping abound.
- Go for vendors with a good record: check out the reviews from other buyers and the percentages how the seller rates against similar vendors and how many products the store has recently sold (succesfully).
- Don’t buy anything too expensive: it may be broken. It may never arrive. It may be terrible quality. It’s a risk you take.
- Sleep on it: it can be extremely tempting to finalise your shopping spree just before you go to bed. But, sleep on it, or even better: wait 24 hours. Really. Can you still remember what you intended to buy? And do you really need all that now? Then you can buy it. Otherwise you may end up with a 36 piece cake decoration set…