Consumerism is thriving in America's dollar stores. In the past decade, the prevalence of these stores has more than doubled. The motor that drives that growth is located over 7,000 miles away in the Chinese city of Yiwu in a mecca for wholesale goods known as the Futian Market. That's where the bulk of the dollar store's bread and butter - cheap and disposable plastic products - are produced. The captivating documentary Buckland introduces us to the traders, buyers and manufacturers who populate this massive operation.
Over $100 million of merchandise can be sold and exported from the Futian Market in any given month. Wholesale agents from around the world comb through more than 70,000 booths in search of the right product at the lowest possible price. Whether buyers are looking for palm-sized stuffed animals, seasonal trinkets of risqué gag gifts, the market is a one-stop destination that keeps the shelves stocked at dollar stores all across the globe. The film follows two of these buyers - one British and the other German - as they discuss the mechanics of doing business in Yiwu, the principles by which they operate, and the challenges they've faced while attempting to integrate into a foreign culture.
The market is also a place where employment opportunities are plentiful for both skilled and unskilled migrant workers. Sadly, these manufacturing jobs usually involve grueling hours, unacceptable working conditions, and a baseline salary of as little as $8 a day. The costs of living have increased, and only a fortunate few are able to sustain their families on a decent wage.
Sellers have had to contend with soaring demands over the years both in terms of the number of products they're asked to supply and the bottom barrel prices at which they're asked to sell them. Production and personnel costs are also on the rise year after year. As a result, quality control is often compromised. This dynamic has made Yiwu vulnerable, and fears persist that the booming industry it has fostered could soon collapse as a result.
Bulkland is an eye-opening expose that reveals the double-edged sword of global capitalism.