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December 10, 2011

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Bargains abound, but is it fair?

FOLLOWING last week's overnight discount shopping at city branches of a department store, a second round was launched by the same retailer this weekend, amid concerns about fairness and safety.

Printemps Department Store in Pudong opened to bargain hunters at 11:45am yesterday - 15 minutes ahead of schedule - and was due to stay open until 4am today.

Customers were enticed by discounts of up to 70 percent off and the offer of a free iPad2 for shoppers who spent a certain amount on specific brands between midnight and 1am.

However, "the bargain hunter's triathlon" - fighting through crowds; grabbing merchandise without looking at the price tags; and rushing to checkouts - didn't produce as much drama as last week after wily shoppers learned a shortcut or two.

A saleswoman said many shoppers came in the previous day to try on items and reserve their purchases.

Some shoppers questioned the fairness of this, saying that everyone should have an equal chance of securing a bargain.

A Printemps media officer, surnamed Zhuang, said most of its customers live nearby and were informed weeks beforehand by catalogues or leaflets through the post.

But the store "did not encourage such reservations," she stressed, saying many had been taken by brand sales representatives.

Some even offered to queue at cash desks for customers, a shopper surnamed Xu said.

Those who did brave the queues had a chance to qualify for a free iPad2 when the eligible brands in the promotion were revealed at midnight.

A store manager, surnamed Chen, said the secrecy was to prevent a repetition of last year, when some staff hoarded eligible goods to secure a freebie.

One consumer, surnamed Ye, had come hoping for an iPad2, but left disappointed.

"We were waiting for further details and I was afraid there was going to be a lot of pushing and shoving when the game starts. It's too intense," said Ye.

To address concerns, the store increased security from 30 staffers to more than 100, including supporting police officers. And the numbers of cashiers were doubled.

"We are monitoring customer traffic in the store, and if it passes the limit of 6,000 people, we will take action," Zhuang said.

Yesterday's all-night shopping spree was a prelude to a wider overnight campaign by Printemps to be held at four Shanghai outlets today.

A year-end shopping extravaganza has become a feature on Shanghai's retail calendar. In addition to Printemps, Pacific Department Store and First Yaohan have also scheduled discount promotions around this time.


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