Supermarket Visits: RT Mart, Tesco, Xinglong Family Business Group, Sam’s Club China
The supermarket visits were very interesting. It was neat to see the Western influence at these stores. You have Chinese brands and labels with the American influence. There are also big brands like P&G, Kraft, Nestlé. It was also very different to see the consumers actually catch the fish they wanted from the tank. The prices in these stores were also considerably cheaper. In these stores there weren’t any westerns other than our group, so we were getting a lot of looks. These stores have seen considerable success in China. The middle and rich class goes to these stores and can afford the luxury and prestige behind most of these brands. They feel proud to have attained a certain level that allows them to shop at these stores.
We went to Yingkou University and were warmly greeted by faculty and teachers to discuss the study on the current situation and development of retail trade in Yingkou city. We discussed the analysis of economic development in Yingkou, the political and legal environment, the sociocultural environment, international environment, natural environment, and retail trade.
Coca-Cola Bottling Plant
This factory visit was much different from Umbra and Brownshoe factory visits. There were less people and more machines doing the labor. The plant is completely owned by Coca-Cola not franchises or the government. This plant didn’t actually make soda only water, milk, and juice. It employs 350 people. The plant was much smaller than the other factories we visited and there was more empty space.
This was the third tier city that the entire group of retailers dreaded. We had been spoiled by the fast pace of Shanghai and the constant taxi services of Shenzhen. We ate breakfast as usual then checked out and headed to the airport. We flew to Shengyang then took a three-hour bus ride to the city outside of the real city. The extended duration of our travel to Yingkou wasn’t the most welcoming to the semi-urbanized city.
We passed farmland and cows grazed pastures. We knew we had made it to the country. However, it was a good transition from the major metropolitan areas. A bit calmer and less crowded we got to feel the city instead of people brushing past us. Yinkgkou granted us fresher air and space to feel free.
During the three-day journey we made many stops at Xinglong Family Business group, RT-Mart, TescoMart and Coco-Cola. All kinds of technology, grocery and apparel were housed in these mart-malls. From floor to floor there was a transition of merchandise but the stores were featured as one-stop shops.
Aside from business we enjoyed our family style dinners and karaoke. Yingkou was the city the retailers connected because we had nothing to entertain us but each other. We song our hearts out and serenaded each other. Although Yingkou isn’t a densely populated top tier city, it will certainly rise in the coming years with retail at its core.
We made a significant stop at the University of Yingkou to discuss the transitioning world of retail along with the US and China economic relations. The students of Yingkou showed their enthusiasm for the subject and noted how they are consistently involved in retailing.
Monday, May 21st
In our visit to Yingkou, we arranged to visit Yingkou University. As we approached the campus, we were greeted by well-dressed and eager faculty of the university. The bus came to an encroaching stop; we quickly got off, and were met by both faculty and staff with applause, music, and, of course, who can’t forget, the photographer. We were led by the students to their auditorium and joined by the rest of the student population. The auditorium was full of students and faculty.
On stage sat a panel of faculty members, and behind them read a banner welcoming the University of Florida students to Yingkou. They truly outdid themselves, their hospitality was quite unexpected. There were presentations, lectures, and a Q&A session which had to be translated every step of the way. Everything presented to us, by the Yingkou faculty and representatives, was presented in Chinese, and then translated into English. I figured I’d take the opportunity to ask a question of the students during the Q&A. I raised my hand and was quickly met by a faculty member holding a microphone in his hand. I nervously took the microphone from him and turned to the Yingkou University students. I had planned to ask them about the most common thing to do after college graduation, to stay in Yingkou, go onto graduate school, or travel outside of Yingkou.
With the microphone in hand, I confidently turned to the students and, much to their surprise, asked my question in Chinese. They were definitely not expecting this. The applause by the students afterwards affirmed their understanding of my question. I could not have been more excited. I was even more excited to translate my question into English for my proud, just-as-excited, University of Florida colleagues. After the presentation, students swarmed around me asking to take pictures and wanting to speak with me in Chinese. They had an extravagant banquet for us following the presentation and lecture, with entertainment including student musicians and a calligraphist. I conversed in Chinese with the university students sitting at my table and helped to translate their thoughts into English. I became quite close with two girls, both my age, during the dinner banquet. We even invited them to join us for karaoke later that night!
Karaoke is the local hot spot for all Chinese kids, teens, and adults to hang out. After a busy day of meetings and meals, there is no better way to unravel than to hit up the local karaoke bar, rent a private room, drink, eat, dance, and sing to the most popular American and Chinese songs. What happens in Yingkou stays in Yingkou.
Tuesday, May 22nd
Before leaving Yingkou, we made one more company visit, to the Coca-Cola factory. We all toured the facility, hairnets worn by all, and learned about their future expansion to the factory. We headed back to the hotel for a quick bite on the fifth floor of the hotel, making sure not to get off on the second floor which we were told may possibly be a brothel, ate lunch and then left Yingkou. We took a high-speed train to Beijing that afternoon. With an allotted time of only sixty seconds to get on and off the train, you could expect that we were quite nervous for some of our first-time, high-speed-railway-ride experiences. Nevertheless, we made it safely to Beijing. It was quite the bonding experience on the train and we had so much fun during the four-hour train ride. We humored ourselves over incidences on the train, our past experiences in China, and what we had to look forward to in Beijing. We arrived in Beijing that night and checked into the most beautiful hotel, the Beijing China World Hotel.