Top wholesale markets in Shanghai

Grab a bargain and stock up on imported food and more at these markets

It’s not just businesses who buy from wholesale vendors – the bargain-savvy have been doing it for years. Time Out stock up on value stationery, steaks and badminton racquets, and so can you.


Just north of Suzhou Creek beside Xizang Lu Bridge, the Shanghai Office Supplies Market doesn’t sound like the sexiest of places. And it’s not, but it is a useful one. This is where most of the vendors on Fuzhou Lu, one of Shanghai’s go-to streets for stationery and art supplies, source many of their goods from. It also supplies some of the smaller stationery markets around town, such as the one on the corner of Xietu Lu and Jumen Lu. But here, you’re cutting out one of the middle men, which results in prices that are around 30 percent cheaper across the board.

Two parallel warehouse sheds stretch back from behind a creek-front building that’s currently undergoing some significant (and dusty) renovation work. Inside under the fluorescent strip lights you’ll find rows and rows of small businesses. There’s a near-constant sound of cellotape being stretched over boxes, while despite the indoor setting electric scooters roam the aisles making collections – like many of the shops mentioned in this feature, vendors here see a lot of their business through Taobao (see how you can shop on Taobao here).

There doesn’t seem to be much logic behind how the various units are arranged, meaning you’ll likely have to set aside some time to explore when you come here. And there’s lots to tour around. There are shops selling calculators, pens, Post-It notes, no smoking signs, coloured paper, USB sticks, ink jet cartridges, balls of string, RMB note counting machines and shredders; one stall sells nothing but lanyards. In addition, there are some slightly less obvious office accessories available here – a number of outlets sell trophies, flags and sports equipment, with people stringing badminton racquets and inflating basketballs. If you work in a nationalistic office that organises regular sports competitions, this is the place for you.

But the market isn’t just for white collar office monkeys. There are also a number of shops selling quality art supplies at reasonable prices. You’ll find everything from Mitsubishi pencils (20RMB/box of ten) and Mali acrylic paints (15RMB/12), to canvases (from 13RMB for 30 x 40cm) and easels (from 40RMB).

Shanghai Office Supplies Market is at 21 Guangfu Lu, near Puyuan Lu, Zhabei district (5106 6599). Open 10am-6pm daily. See full address details


The Caoyang Wholesale Fruit Market is closed as of October 31 2015. For an alternative, try the Longwu Import Fruit Market at 3188 Longwu Lu.

Zhenru metro station on Line 11 takes its name from the pleasant temple a short walk away, but don’t mistake this area for a serene monastic getaway; the station is surrounded by a triumvarate of sometimes chaotic wholesale markets. There’s the Limin Frozen Goods Market (12 Beishi Lu, near Caoyang Lu) featuring lines of units full of freezers stocked with everything from Australian beef to McCain’s French fries, but the main attractions are the Tongchuan Lu Marine Market and the Caoyang Fruit Market.

Take exit 2 from the metro station and you’ll find the fruit market immediately in front of you. Lorries stuffed full of boxes stand idling and sometimes leaking ice on the tarmac outside the yawning entrance into a huge warehouse lined with towers of various fruits.

Wander through the interlinked series of sheds and you’ll find a wide array of fruit, usually for sale by the box and sourced from across the country. There are hami melons from Xinjiang (1.2RMB/jin – about half a kilo) and apples from Shaanxi (75RMB/16 jin box).

As you’d expect, the goods stored here shift depending upon the season; in the summer you can expect to find (enormous, juicy) watermelons dominating the warehouse’s landscape – including yellow flesh varieties, which taste marginally sweeter and set you back twice the price of the red ones (3RMB/jin).

The stallholders are generally happy for you to sample their wares before you buy, provided they’re not dozing off in the beds behind their stacks of boxed fruits. The far-from-rare siestas mean that you’re best off visiting this market during the mornings, though there’s another key reason for this too – despite touring cleaners, discarded pieces of fruit build up and, as summer turns up the heat on Shanghai, things get quite pungent by mid-afternoon. Sellers offering durian are best avoided by that point.

Caoyang Wholesale Fruit Market is at 1366 Caoyang Lu, near Tongchuan Lu, Putuo district. Open 9am-6pm daily. See full address details

Hotel supplies


Unless you’re the equipment buyer for a hotel, you might think that the Hotel Supplies Market on Aomen Lu isn’t for you. But don’t write it off so quickly. Tucked around the back of the street a short distance from the Moganshan Lu art district, this huge multi-storey market may have a somewhat desolate-looking exterior, but hidden within is an absolute treasure trove of cooking and homeware equipment.

Whether you’re looking to join Shanghai’s legions of boutique cupcake makers, or just want to spruce up your kitchen and dining room, chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for at this epic wholesale market; and likely at a bargain price too.

Set over three floors, the mammoth market can feel a bit daunting when you realise its scale, but each level is split into separate, reasonably well-labelled sections such as ‘Eastern and Western dessert utensils’ and ‘disposable tableware’. There’s even a map and guide at the entrance should you need it, enabling you to head straight to the appropriate floor if you know exactly what you’re after.

There’s much fun to be had wandering the aisles in between towering shelves. You’ll pass all manner of pots and pans, including items you’re unlikely to pick up at Ikea such as copper hot pot pots (from 134RMB) and bamboo dumpling steamers (from 6.90RMB). There’s even a dedicated Japanese and Korean cooking section which has everything you need if you’re opening a restaurant in Gubei (or just planning a theme night at home), including Japanese-style lanterns (from 16.10RMB).

One floor features more heavy duty cooking equipment, including blenders (from 149RMB), automatic meat slicers (from 1,958RMB) and large industrial-sized potato peelers (4,886RMB). Another area features shelves of chef whites (from 52.70RMB) and other kitchen uniform items. It’s a mind-boggling collection of cooking-related paraphernalia, but a brilliant one to explore – you’re unlikely to leave empty-handed.

Hotel Supplies Market is at 345 Aomen Lu, near Jiangning Lu, Putuo district (6276 1111). Open 9am-5.30pm daily. See full address details

Imported foods


Update: Maojiatang Dry Goods Market has closed as of July 2015.

The Maojiatang Dry Goods market in Minhang consists of a series of huge warehouses in an area that’s pockmarked with construction sites and dug up roads. But it’s worth braving the dust and confusion to get to the sprawling site that, in addition to rows and rows of dried fruits, nuts and other foodstuffs from around China, sells a range of imported products.

While a wander through the wide array of offerings at the Chinese dried food halls is fascinating, a number of shops in the southern section of the market offer a selection of goods from Europe and the US. Cereals, tinned foods, bottles of alcohol and jars of sauces can be found here – though keep an eye out for ripoffs; we spotted tins of ‘Cow’s Head’ mustard made to look like the classic English Colman’s.

One of the main attractions here is the range of cheeses. A number of stalls offer the cheeses that you’ll find on the shelves of Carrefour, but at lower prices; wedges of edam go for around 15RMB for 25g, while two small balls of mozzarella are 15RMB. And of course, you can buy in bulk; Emmental is available for 68RMB/kg for a 2.3kg block.

Outside of the market proper, opposite the southern entrance, there are also a number of shops selling much of the above in slightly more organised surrounds. Wanduo at 158 Donglan Lu is one of the best.

Maojiatang Dry Goods Market is at 1225 Lianhua Lu, near Caobao Lu, Minhang district (6480 1346). Open 10am-6pm daily. See full address details


Conveniently located for those who love a shrimp cocktail, the Tongchuan Marine Market is found a plum stone’s throw from Caoyang Fruit Market. Cross over onto Tongchuan Lu and you’ll find both sides of an entire block crammed full of rows of stalls selling lots and lots of seafood. Unlike Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Fish Market, there’s no particular need to visit Tongchuan at the crack of dawn – it remains bustling throughout the day, with customers roaming the street, and the large warehouses that lead off of it in search of the perfect catch.

Unruly and filled with all manner of weird and wonderful marine life, much of it swimming in large tanks lining the walls of each stall, the market is as much about spectacle as it is about shopping. Nevertheless, you can pick up salmon steaks for 55RMB/jin and Australian lobster for 400RMB/jin (cheaper Cuban varieties go for as little as 100RMB/ jin, but they’re not currently in season). Dotted in among the seafood stalls, there are also some vendors offering imported Australian beef, with rib eyes costing around 280RMB/kg and sirloin around 350RMB/kg.

And if you’d like someone to cook your catch for you, there are a handful of small restaurants tucked away among the market stalls such as Xinjiulong Tang (920 Tongchuan Lu, near Lanxi Lu) who’ll turn your purchase into a dish for small fee (price depends upon ingredients and cooking method). It’s not exactly Tsukiji, but Tongchuan is still worth a visit, even if just for the experience.

Tongchuan Lu Marine Market is at Tongchuan Lu, near Caoyang Lu, Putuo district (6257 5052). Open 8am-6pm daily. See full address details



Although many of the downtown versions have been moved to the suburbs in recent years, there are still plenty of flower and bird markets to be found throughout the city. One of them, on Putuo district’s Wanghangdu Hou Lu, masks a huge wholesale gardening market.

Skip past the slightly distressing pet market and smaller flower market out the front and instead head into the drab-looking building behind. Inside, you’ll be met with an overwhelming fragrance of flowers and greenery and will find everything from potted herbs such as rosemary (10RMB) and thyme (15RMB) to packets of seeds, planters and fertiliser.

If you speak a bit of Chinese, the shopkeepers are generally happy to talk you through the various plants that they have for sale, proffering tips for how to best look after them and which types may be best suited to your needs – though with a blisteringly hot summer being forecast, it is perhaps wiser to focus solely on the various cacti that you’ll find dotting the warehouse.

Prices for the plants and cut flowers on sale here range vastly depending on rarity and size but a general rule of thumb for getting the best bargains is to buy in bulk – this is a wholesale market after all. And if you’re worried about carrying an entire window garden back on your bike, be aware that most of the units here offer home delivery.

Caojiadu Flower and Bird Market is at 33 Wanhangdu Hou Lu, near Wanhangdu Lu, Putuo district (5239 7777). Open 9am-6pm daily. See full address details