So, Taobao actually opened a physical shop at Plaza Singapura, and everyone is all in a tizzy because you can finally see/touch/jump on Taobao furniture and home appliances, instead of relying on heavily-Photoshopped pictures.
If you haven’t visited it yet… I’m gonna save you the MRT fare to Dhoby Ghaut. I visited over the weekend and found that it’s probably not worth a special trip down.
For a start, “Taobao shop” is a misnomer – it’s actually just a tiny showroom corner and you can’t buy anything on the spot. You need to download the Taobao app and scan the QR code. That’s not great if you got C5 for Chinese in school.
Also, I don’t know who chose the Taobao items to put on display, but it’s a strange mix. Many of the items chosen are actually quite expensive for online shopping standards. So if the point of this retail space is to impress Singaporeans with how cheap and good Taobao products are, it’s kind of a flop.
Taobao Singapore shop location
Okay, before I highlight the products you can find at the Taobao shop, the location of the store itself is a bit tricky. It’s located within NomadX (which is located #01-67 and #03-65 to 69 Plaza Singapura).
The easiest way to find it is to take Exit E at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station (the purple line side). Come up the escalator and enter Plaza Singapura via this familiar atrium:
Enter NomadX. This is the new retail space at PS where there are many boutique brands, but just ignore everything – it’s all overpriced crap that no one cares about, not when Taobao is just around the corner!
Go straight up the escalator, turn right and walk all the way to the end. You’ll see a random assortment of homewares in a semi-open space.
(Apparently Qanvast had something to do with the furniture here? Not very impressive, TBH…)
As you can see, it’s a very small space that doesn’t do justice to the cave of wonders that is the Taobao website. It takes just 5 minutes to look through everything. Here are 7 items that caught my eye:
1. Linshimuye Lounge Chair (828 RMB / $165.21)
I’ve been beo-ing Muji’s High Back Reclining Sofa for the longest time, but the price tag of over $700 for sofa + cover has been a major deterrent.
So when I saw this China dupe of the Muji chair, I was totally excited. It was almost as comfy as the Muji one too, and according to the Taobao shop price tag, retailing at only a quarter of the price: 828 RMB ($165.21).
For the uninitiated, Linshimuye (林氏木业) isn’t any old Taobao seller. It may have started out as one, but it now has its own following in China as a premium furniture retailer. That’s why it’s on Tmall. You can check out their website here.
However, when I tried to look for it online, I couldn’t find it at that 828 RMB price. The same armchair is available on Taobao (1,656 RMB / $328.78) and Tmall (1,720 RMB / $341.51). The cheapest listing I found was actually on EZbuy, which prices it at $239.20 (based on 1,076.40 RMB).
2. Bamboo Tree Bookshelf (299 RMB / $59.66)
Next up, a very very chio bamboo bookshelf that will look way better than your boring ol’ IKEA Billy bookcase.
If you usually buy furniture from, I don’t know, Scanteak or something, the price tag of 299 RMB ($59.66) may seem cheap. But if you have any Taobao-ing experience at all, you’ll know that 299 RMB is really really expensive for Taobao standards.
A quick search on Taobao or EZbuy for “tree bookshelf” reveals gazillions of similar designs, some going for as little as 101 RMB ($20.06). You can even buy one for $30 on Lazada or $40 on Qoo10, if you like.
Of course, there’s the issue of quality. The Taobao shop display item seems to be made of solid bamboo, but many of the cheaper items online are MDF (basically sawdust glued together, a.k.a. “IKEA material”).
Personally, I wouldn’t pay a premium for solid wood if it’s not a load-bearing object. And this bookshelf is likely only going to hold display items and a few books, not your gold bar collection.
3. Xiaomi Air Purifier, Kettle, Rice Cooker & Cameras
I know that Xiaomi products are a must-have in just about every Singaporean’s home – after all, they’re high-tech, minimalist-looking and cheap at the same time. What’s not to love?
But I really don’t know why Taobao bothered to put Xiaomi products in their store when there are over 10 Xiaomi stores in Singapore already and hundreds of sellers online selling their products. You can quickly see that the prices on Taobao are either on par with or even more than that of other retailers.
Just for kicks, I’ve compared the prices of the Xiaomi products in the Taobao store vs other online retailers:
|Item||Taobao shop price||Price elsewhere|
|Xiaomi camera||199 RMB ($39.71)||$40.98 on Qoo10|
|Xiaomi kettle||219 RMB ($43.70)||$26.80 on Shopee|
|Xiaomi rice cooker||599 RMB ($119.52)||$127 on Tecobuy|
|Xiaomi air purifier||899 RMB ($179.38)||$125 on Qoo10|
See? Almost everything can be bought cheaper or for the same price on non-Taobao platforms. Ironically, the shop doesn’t do Taobao any favours by displaying Xiaomi products so prominently.
4. Stoneware Serving Set (99 RMB / $19.75)
I’m not a huge fan of the Le Creuset look, but after this veritable orgy of clean lines and Scandi-chic, my eyes were quite happy to rest upon something that was actually not marbled or wood.
Le Creuset is better known for its colourful cast iron cookware, but cooking with cast iron really isn’t for everyone. On the other hand, anyone can use their pretty ceramic stoneware serving dishes and bowls, even if it’s to serve instant noodles and potato chips.
The problem is that Le Creuset stoneware products are sooo expensive. A simple oval serving dish costs upwards of $50, while a set of cutesy heart-shaped dishes costs almost $80.
So, it’s obvious that it’s damn worth it to buy the fake Le Creuset stoneware serving set for only 99 RMB ($19.75) on Taobao lah. The set includes casserole dish (with lid), the signature heart-shaped dish and 2 oblong serving dishes. Worth buying for sure.
5. Carote Yuanyang Steamboat Pot (199 RMB / $39.71)
“That’s a very pretty little steamboat you have there,” said no one ever. Well, until they set their eyes on this adorable Carote stoneware number, that is.
At 199 RMB ($39.71) on Taobao’s Tmall, this branded steamboat pot isn’t exactly the cheapest. Far from it, actually. You can snag an electric steamboat for as little as $24.90, or, if you really want the double-soup design, there’s a sleek (non-electric) $32.80 ToTT one on Redmart.
So in fact, this is one of the rare instances where you’d actually be paying more for something on Taobao. Which sounds completely wrong to me.
Then again, steamboat is usually a social affair, so I don’t blame you for being willing to pay more, just so you can break out the pretty speckled stoneware and wooden handles in front of guests.
6. Midea Robot Vacuum Cleaner (699 RMB / $139.47)
So maybe you super gian a robot vacuum cleaner – like that Xiaomi robot vacuum that everyone has – but cannot justify the $499 price tag for what amounts to a high-tech device to disturb your cat with…
Well then, get yourself on Taobao, because you can find a much cheaper
cat toy robot vacuum cleaner here.
Not all are unknown brands either. Case in point: Chinese brand Midea’s robot vacuum cleaner, retailing for 699 RMB ($139.47) on Taobao.
This is a pretty good price, considering robot vacuum cleaners around the $200 to $300 price point are considered cheap already in Singapore. (Still, note that you can find a few Midea robotic vacuum cleaners on Qoo10 for the sub-$200 price range.)
It’s not sleek and sexy like the Xiaomi one, but hey, what matters is that Mr. Whiskers loves it.
7. Electronic Face Cleanser (38 RMB / $27.54) & NoTime Blackhead Remover (199 RMB / $39.71)
The vibrating pink silicone object on top right is not a sex toy, but a face cleanser modelled after the Foreo Luna line of facial cleansers. (Think electric toothbrush, but for your face, and minus the gross bristles.)
I’ve never tried this so I can’t vouch for its efficacy, but know that the original costs over $50 online – the cheapest I found was $52.17 on ASOS – and has tons of positive reviews.
As you’d expect, the cult beauty product has already spawned loads of cheap knockoffs, and you can easily find one under $10 on sites like Shopee (like this one and this one). So the KingdomCares version, at 138 RMB ($27.54), isn’t all that cheap.
I saved the best for last: The thermometer-looking thing at the bottom is a blackhead vacuum extractor – literally a tiny vacuum cleaner that will suck that nasty crap out of your pores. Totally gross, but who wouldn’t want one?
However, the problem once again is that they’ve selected an unnecessarily expensive item. The price tag of 199 RMB ($39.71) seems extremely steep when you consider the sheer variety of similar products under $10, both on Taobao and otherwise. Again, it’s not making Taobao look good.
There are, of course, other pieces of furniture and household devices scattered around the shop, but it’s just the same thing over and over: weirdly pricey (by Taobao standards) items that you can find on other retailers’ sites. Sorry, but I’m just not seeing the point here?
What do you think of the new Taobao shop at Plaza Singapura? Tell us what you think in the comments.