Mon, Oct 09, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Feature: Shop owners question new Guanghua's attractiveness

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Shopping for cheap electronic products or secondhand books in the cramped and unkempt Guanghua Market previously located in the underbelly of the Guanghua overpass was a unique experience for many Taiwanese and foreigners alike.

The grungy environment and the experience of being shoved and elbowed by hundreds of shoppers did nothing to stop Guanghua from becoming one of the largest secondhand book and electronics markets in Taiwan.

It wasn't until the Taipei City Government demolished the Guanghua bridge and the old market last year with plans to relocate the stores that vendors began to worry that the new modern shopping mall will scare shoppers away and make Guanghua the next Jiancheng Circle -- Taipei's oldest night market that was forced to shut down this July after the city government's reconstruction project failed to attract crowds.

"I look forward to moving to the new building, but I am also very worried. Business has dropped 30 percent since we moved to the temporary location, and I don't expect it to get better in the new place," said Chu Hung Hsiu-ching (朱洪繡靜), whose electronics shop has been in the market for more than 20 years.

After the old market was torn down, the Taipei City Market Administration Office of the Economic Development Department moved a total of 196 stores to a temporary location 500m from the original market on the intersection of Civic Boulevard and Jinshan Road, and will relocate the stores to a 7-story mall next May.

Lin Sheng-chung (林聖忠), commissioner of the department, said the bridge and old market were demolished due to public safety concerns. With the relocation of the stores, both store owners and customers will enjoy a clean and more spacious shopping environment.

"We want to transform the traditional operating model of the market," he said.

According to the department, the first floor of the new building will be a lobby used to display electronic products or as a food court. Stores will be located on the second and third floor, while the underground floor will provide more than 80 parking spaces.

During an inspection tour of the market last week, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) lauded the convenience and safety of the new mall, and dismissed concerns that the market's competitiveness would drop after relocation.

"The shopping environment of the original market was neither comfortable nor safe. The new mall provides bigger and cleaner spaces ? I don't think the market will become another Jiancheng Circle. The stores have survived for years," he said.

Most store owners, however, did not share Ma's optimism about the market's future.

Hsieh Hsin-feng (謝新鋒), owner of a computer accessory store, told the Taipei Times that business at his store had dropped approximately 50 percent after moving to the temporary location. The decline of business has made not only him, but most of the owners, afraid of relocating to the new mall.

"I don't think the situation will be as bad as the Jiancheng Circle, but I am still worried ? Many customers told me that they were used to shopping in the old market. I fear that they won't come to the new mall," he said.

Chu said the design of the temporary location, which houses stores in four separate trailer houses, has failed to attract as many shoppers as in old market.

"I hope that the city government will have a better design for the new mall and make it easier for customers to find what they want," she said.

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