Forging a 'stable, fair, promising' market for healthy competition

Li Qian
Jing'an prides itself as a pioneer in promoting new ways to do business.
Li Qian
Forging a 'stable, fair, promising' market for healthy competition
Yu Ruwen

Downtown Jing'an view

Ever since Starbucks opened its second global Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Shanghai earlier this month, long queues of people waiting for the chance to experience a “Willy Wonka” moment have formed.

In this case, it’s the process of making of coffee, not chocolate, that they are lined up to behold.

The new roastery, which shows visitors the coffee-making process from green beans to brewed cup, is nearly twice the size of the inaugural roastery in Seattle, where Starbucks is based. 

Local university student Dong Xinxin said she spent more than an hour in line at the Jing’an District outlet on a Sunday afternoon.

“It was well worth the wait,” she said. “I love the ambience that Starbucks has created. It’s big and really impressive. It felt like visiting a coffee museum. I think this kind of immersive experience is the trend of the future.” 

To deal with the crowds in the first five days after the December 6 opening, Jing’an Commercial Commission officials worked as volunteers to keep order.

“We had three shifts, with two people per shift every day,” said Gao Neng, deputy director of the commission.

Indeed, Jing’an has gone all out to welcome a business model unique to downtown.

“This is the embodiment of innovation in the coffee business,” Gao said. 

Because it was a new model, the district mobilized many departments to pave the way. The market watchdog, fire department, urban planning bureau, environmental protection authority, and Food and Drug Administration held dozens of meetings to solve difficulties related to location, licensing and layout.

“The roastery has a full production line,” Gao said. “It was, in a sense, industrial production on a retail site. We had to carefully study existing rules and find solutions.” That resulted in China’s first regulation allowing “an open coffee production workshop” in a retail outlet. Eleven expat baristas were given a green channel to get their work permits for the new store.

Jing’an likes to pride itself as a pioneer in promoting new ways to do business. That mindset started in 2012 when the district commercial commission and the city’s quarantine inspection bureau signed an agreement offering upmarket clothing brands a “fast pass” to set up local headquarters in Jing’an.

The fashion hours are granted priority ranking so that fabric coming from the same batch can be tested in advance, lessening the chance of imported shipments being held up by the inspection process.

Now, nearly 20 luxury labels, including LV, Dior, Gucci, YSL, Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo, have taken advantage of the policy. 

“We want to build a stable, fair and promising market that can compete with world fashion centers like New York, Paris and London,” Gao said. “It’s vital to provide high-quality and tailor-made services to improve the business environment.”

The zeal has paid off. Jing’an has attracted the regional headquarters of international firms like Hard Rock Café, China’s first Louis Vuitton Maison and Asia’s biggest Loewe store. 

“We organize sessions to tutor their human resources staff on how to get through all the bureaucratic procedures,” said Zhu Yinmo, an official with the Jing’an Human Resources and Social Security Bureau. “We also have QQ and WeChat groups, where they can ask questions at any time.”

The district has also set up a one-stop service center, where 24 government agencies are on hand to handle 234 administrative matters. 

The district’s resourcefulness rests heavily on using big data to serve commercial interests.

It created a “smart” commercial zone on bustling Nanjing Road W. two years ago and will upgraded the policy next year to help retailers identify target customer groups and improve services to shoppers.

“We could distribute thousands of questionnaires on the street to find out whether people like a given shopping mall or not,” he said. “Now, with big data systems, we can see a man leaving a store with a smile, which tells us he liked the shopping experience.” 

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