Thousands of shoppers lined up yesterday to buy limited edition eco-friendly shopping bags designed by British designer Anya Hindmarch, triggering clashes that left several shoppers injured and landed at least eight in the hospital.
Stampedes broke out when four department stores carrying the bags opened yesterday morning, injuring several people. Some shoppers clashed with store clerks and kicked and broke shop windows as they fought their way into the stores.
Anya Hindmarch unveiled her eco-friendly canvas shopping bag, emblazoned with the words "I'm Not A Plastic Bag" -- in the UK in April, but they were not available in Hong Kong and Taiwan until yesterday.
Taiwanese stores received 750 of the bags, which started selling in five department stores across the island yesterday morning.
Young women and men began lining up outside the department stores on Thursday morning.
At the Shinkong Mitsukoshi Department Store in Taipei's Xinyi District -- which had only 100 bags to sell -- some 500 people lined up on the pavement.
Lee You-huang, a university student who was 31st in line, said that he joined the line at 2pm on Thursday.
He said the Anya bag was fashionable and inexpensive and he would use it every day.
Huang Chih-mei, an office worker, joined the line on Thursday evening. She has collected several designer handbags but wanted to buy the Anya bag "because it is a limited edition" and cheap.
At the Shinkong store, each shopper was allowed to buy only one bag. Some shoppers bought the bags in order to resell them for a profit.
The bags went for NT$500 each, but the price has already risen to NT$8,000 on the Internet.
"That is too high. If they sell it for NT$1,000 to NT$3,000, I would consider buying one," said Liu Pei-li, an accountant who sneaked out of her office for an hour to line up.
She did not get to buy a bag as supplies ran out, leaving only with a bottle of water that Shinkong had distributed to the hundreds of would-be customers.
Taipei's Breeze Center later yesterday admitted it had made a mistake in allowing shoppers to line up in different locations after eight customers ended up in the hospital following a mad scramble for the bags, while Tainan's Shinkong department store decided to delay selling the bags until July 16.
The Breeze Center added that it had given each of the injured shoppers a small sum of money as consolation and said it would cover all their medical costs.
Meanwhile in Hong Kong, a shopping center was forced to call in police when huge crowds of people, hundreds of whom had stood in line overnight, demanded to be let in for the launch of the designer bags.
One police officer estimated that by yesterday morning as many as two thousand people were waiting outside Hong Kong's upmarket Landmark Center.
By late morning Hong Kong police were asking people to disperse, but many refused to leave, shouting, "open the store."