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Crystal gazing: Finding your cut-rate dream jewelry

JENNY Gu craved that star-shaped pendant from Swarovski for quite some time. From time to time, the 24-year-old office lady visited the Austrian crystal manufacturer's store on Nanjing Road W. during her lunch break - just to gaze at it.

"I wanted it for a Valentine's Day gift," she says. "However, my boyfriend's salary was cut recently and I didn't want to add to his pressure."

Last week, she walked into a small jewelry boutique at the intersection of Maoming Road N. and Weihai Road after work. It was her first visit and she was stunned to find a similar pendant - almost the same as her dream ornament, except lacking the little swan logo.

It is priced at 280 yuan (US$41). After a long round of bargaining, she finally paid 150 yuan.

She was delighted: "The one at Swarovski costs more than 800 yuan. I don't really care whether it comes with a logo or not."

According to Tina Chen, a salesperson at the store Yin Cai Tian Di (World of Colorful Silver), there are more and more patrons like Gu these days. Some of them come after window shopping on Nanjing Road W., just five minutes' walk away. Rings, necklaces and earrings in the store cost half as much or even less than those in a brand store.

"However, these young ladies tend to bargain a lot," she says. "For example, they only want to pay 100 yuan to 150 yuan for a piece originally priced at 400 yuan to 500 yuan, saying the economy is not good nowadays."

"I do feel guilty when I buy new things these days," Gu admits. "Although my salary doesn't change, those people around me see salary drop. The feeling is gloomy. I'm not as happy as I used to be when I bought new clothes or jewelry."

Although business is improving these days, Chen says her boss is thinking of closing the store that only opened two months ago, and is looking for a tenant to take it over.

The store has another branch on Sichuan Road in Hongkou District, which has much higher sales than the one on Weihai Road, she says. It sells an average 5,000 yuan to 6,000 yuan a day, compared with around 1,000 yuan a day for the Weihai store. On some days there are no sales.

The monthly rent is more than 10,000 yuan, and electricity costs more than 700 yuan.

To break even and to attract more shrewd customers, the store recently started selling clothes at less than 100 yuan.

It did work, says Chen.

"Business is getting better and better." Maybe they won't have to find a new tenant.


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