Anyone who's been in our company for more than an hour or two knows that we really do appreciate Miniso, slingers of useful junk and contingency solutions to all of life's minutiae. Okay, so it's basically a knock-off of the Muji concept, but the last time we checked Muji was selling nearly identical bits of household clutter you don't really need (but really really want!) for a lot more than 10-15RMB a pop, so in our humble opinion the scrappy underdog has them beat in terms of value.
Those familiar with the off-brand-cola-dusted-with-lint environs of Poundland or the Dollar Tree need to check their misgivings at the door – Miniso's clean, bright and actually stocks products of a reasonable quality, especially when you consider just how gosh-darn cheap they are.
Time Out Beijing 4 Miniso 4eva
We slunk round the aisles of the Miniso branch in Chaoyangmen's U-Town mall in order to scout out some of the shop's best bargains that you can exchange for money and be glared at by (understandably) concerned staff wondering just why someone might decide to photograph nearly everything in the store.
Hello Kitty hairbrushes! For 10RMB! We're as much fans of misplaced kitsch as anyone, so we're digging these Sanrio-adorned keratin detanglers. Take it on good authority that the largest, paddle-brush size works pretty well on the kind of thick, curly hair that starts to feel it when ignored.
Crave the sweet yellow embrace of a Lamborghini but lack both the funds and the capacity to drive one in the chaos that is Beijing's road network? Why not treat yourself to this appropriately citrus-hued, remote-controlled alternative – it's only 35RMB! There's also a Mini Cooper version on offer, in case you're the kind of basic b*tch/Michael Caine-wannabe that's always wanted one.
These headphones, which cost between 29RMB and 59RMB a pop, might not have sufficient sound-quality to make them Bose or Sennheiser challengers, but they're cheap enough to use and abuse with gusto. Leave them on the subway? Buy another pair! Drop them drunkenly down the stairwell from your sixth floor walk-up? Buy another pair!
Snapped one pair so hard on your skull that they draw blood? Tape them to another broken pair you've got lying around the office to make these Frankenphones!
There were some smaller, fold-up umbrellas for 49RMB, but we can never keep our portable rain canopies intact for long enough to justify spending the equivalent of 10 bottles of Tsingtao on one. Instead, we love these cheap 'n' chirpy brollies, available in a jaunty range of colours for a much more budget-friendly 10RMB.
Although no-one's going to confuse these perfumes for the upmarket ones they're gleefully ripping off (L'Eau d'Issey Florale, represent!) they don't smell half-bad and make pretty great room sprays. We also liked the hyper-earnest tannoy jingle that played relentlessly throughout our stint in Miniso, claiming that not only are these perfumes from a storied perfume house in 'Paris, city of romance and fashion', but that they evoke the spirit of a 'young girl, walking barefoot in a garden'. While we wouldn't go that far, we will concede, perfume snobs that we are, that they're not bad.
These mirrors, however, are amazing value – 10 or 15RMB a piece, honeys. Considering that we've treated ourselves to at least 21 years of bad luck by smashing mirrors in cramped hutong bathrooms, we'll take several.
After a water bottle or thermos flask? You're in luck: there's loads and they're all super cheap.
These ones even subscribe to the Simpsons school of naming things.
You should definitely buy this 59.9RMB Stitch backpack for any kids or old-school ravers in your life. He's adorable, and pretty good quality for something you'd find in a cheap shop: there's very little chance of his plastic parts turning nasty and falling off, only to be swallowed and become a choking habit for your kiddo/pet party idiot (delete as appropriate).
This 'fashionable handle fat massager', however, is the perfect gift for any enemies you may or may not have. They won't be so cocky when they're rubbing their love handles with a green and white bit of plastic and trying to choke back sobs, will they?
These clear plastic make-up organisers might actually complement the decor in your apartment, and they're more or less a direct facsimile of the ones that you can get in Muji that every beauty blogger under the sun went la la for a few years back. However, the Muji ones go for a few hundred kuai, whereas these ones are 25RMB. You do the maths.
Phone cables: you use them, you abuse them, they break or get lost or melt into your dodgy plug socket (true story) and you need a new one. Considering the working life of these little bastards, it makes sense to only spend your pocket change on a 10RMB one from Miniso. They do need one of the little transformer blocks to work (15RMB), so be aware that plugging the cable directly into a computer USB socket is likely to result in frustration.
With this in mind, why not supplement your phone's battery life with a portable power pack (try saying that ten times fast)? The plain ones go for 69RMB, but why not treat yourself and splash out the extra 20 for one with a cutesy Moomin on it? You've earned it.
You've also earned some his 'n' hers socks, a steal at 15RMB a pack and good at all the things socks need to be good at, like keeping your feet warm, stopping blisters and soaking up all the grotesque smells your sweat-pads can devise to stop your shoes smelling like some small animal made of cheese crawled into them and died. They might have to be hers 'n' hers socks, though, as the women's variety are sized small and applying gender divisions to socks is kind of pointless.
There's Miniso shops all around Beijing, and that's not even all they had in store to throw your money at – happy shopping, folks!