How do Chinese medicine shops survive?

Chinese herbs

In this current recession, I’m bewildered by the continued existence of one particular shopping franchise – the Chinese Herbs establishments.

Wander through any shopping mall – big or small – and many suburban high streets and you’ll see them. A curiously unenticing shop, usually staffed by a fairly surly looking Oriental gentleman.

Rows of odd jars, no customers, and the prospect of…well, I don’t know what.

I know Chinese medicine is reputed to be exceptionally accurate – in ancient times, Chinese doctors were only paid when people were healthy, rather than ill, so the incentive was always to maintain wellness.

However, all this Oriental diagnosticism doesn’t get away from the fact that no-one ever seems to be in their shops. What are their margins? How many customers do they need to survive? It sure beats me.

Cupboard love?

A wardrobe perhapsWe’ve just been away for a week to lovely Ludlow, the slowest town in the country – now famed for its culinary delights, even though many of the original leading lights have left.

Ludlow is a wonderful example of a market town – we saw 5 markets while we were there of varying types – filled with old timber buildings and plaques at every turn detailing which Earl or other nobleman used to own the building.

Our accommodation was a garden flat in an old building, next to the town’s main arts centre, the Assembly Rooms, just off the main Market Square – all creaky floorboards, old wooden furniture and a teeny bathroom.

The piece de resistance of the flat was the kitchen, though. As you see can on the left, there was what looks like a wardrobe in the main room. Useful for storing our clothes in, we thought.

From the side, the wardrobe looked pretty normal, but no, we were very wrong. The wardrobe/cupboard was actually our flat’s kitchen – see below.

Hidden behind the doors was a Baby Belling, a mini sink and draining board, plus a microwave, kettle and toaster. Not to mention cutlery, kitchen bin, crockery, pans, etc…

Ingenious, yes, but why on earth couldn’t the landlady have just put in a little counter. Believe me, it gets really annoying to have to open a wardrobe door just to turn on the kettle, turn on a tap or out something in the bin!
Nope, it’s a kitchen