Shenzhen’s most famous shopping mall is just over the border from Hong Kong, across a walkway and checkpoint from Hong Kong’s Lowu MTR station, one of the two MTR stations at the end of the Hong Kong train line.

Many visitors think that the Luohu Commercial Centre is typical of Shenzhen or that it is Shenzhen’s main attraction. In fact it’s a one-of-a-kind shopping centre. It evolved with the opening up of China purely to cater to Hong Kong shoppers going to China for a day trip looking for cheap goods, fake designer labels, cheap massages, manicures and restaurants.

We mentioned above that the Chaozhou businesses dominate at the Luohu Commercial Centre. Many of the shopkeepers are related to each other and run the shops as family businesses. They work long hours, and often only take off one Sunday a month and a long holiday at Chinese New Year.

The shopkeepers at Luohu tend to be clannish, good-humoured and cordial but very sharp in business. We suspect that they were the people for whom the phrase buyer beware was especially invented. Check the quality of goods supplied and make sure that there are no fake or worn notes in your change.

The main exceptions to the dominance of Chaozhou people in the Luohu Shopping Mall are the tailors. They usually come from Shanghai, the home of Chinese tailoring.

Like many Chinese shopping areas, shopkeepers have their meals brought to them. If you are in the Commercial Centre after 5 p.m., things get more relaxed as the noodles and other dinner boxes appear. Even the most vigorous sales person takes a break, sometimes offering you some of their dinner. Often you will see women walking around selling fruit snacks to the shopkeepers.

Shopkeepers aren’t continuously busy extracting money from your pocket. Our favourite tailor is a dedicated gambler and there are always floating poker games going on round the building. Sometimes shopkeepers are too busy to serve you because they haven’t yet finished their computer card game on the laptop.

You should also be aware that, despite its reputation as the home of pirated goods. Shenzhen is constantly cracking down on intellectual property piracy. Not so long ago this was a joke. The inspectors would appear you knew they were coming because suddenly mobile phones would be ringing all around the centre. They weren’t alone when they arrived. A long line of shop boys with identical Korean boy band haircuts would follow them mockingly in single file. Meanwhile all you could hear was the sound of DVDs and Prada bags being hurriedly shoved into safe places in the ceiling.

Things are more serious now. It is common to see shops sealed with signs proclaiming their crimes. Yes, you can still buy knock-offs but you have to be in the know.


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