Chinese spending big on holidays

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Chinese spending big on holidays

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Lotte Duty Free store located inside Lotte Department Store in Sogong-dong, central Seoul, is crowded on Sunday with Chinese tourists on vacation for their Labor Day holiday. [NEWSIS]

Earlier this week, COEX Mall in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, was bustling with foreign tourists as they moved from one store to another, buying eye-catching items like smartphone cases and clothes advertised by their favorite Korean stars. Many of the stores, Giordano in particular, were crowded with Chinese customers checking out the latest jeans and raincoats. Korean consumers could be spotted here and there.

Concerns have been raised that the April 16 Sewol disaster would impact the local economy as Koreans spend less as the nation grieves, but to stave off sluggishness, retailers have turned to tourists, particularly from China and Japan, to raise sales. Many Chinese and Japanese visitors come to Korea during their May holidays. China takes off for Labor Day from May 1 to 3, and Golden Week in Japan is from April 26 to May 6. Based on figures released yesterday, retailers were right to bet on Chinese consumers, but not so much on Japanese.

According to Lotte Department Store yesterday, the volume of payments made per day using the China UnionPay card from April 25 to May 6 jumped an average of 123.1 percent nationwide compared to the same period in the previous year. Based on the retailer’s payment analysis, of the top 10 brands sold, seven of them including Cartier, Chanel and Tiffany were overseas brands while three including MCM were domestic.

“Sales from Chinese consumers jumped significantly during the recent holiday period compared to the previous year,” said Park Joong-koo, head of marketing at Lotte Department Store. “This year, we noticed that more Chinese tourists are visiting Korea not as part of tour packages but on individual tours. They are also purchasing expensive items.”

And Lotte isn’t alone.

Purchases made by Chinese tourists at Hyundai Department Store also increased 162.3 percent from May 1 to 6 this year, compared to the previous year while at Shinsegae Department Store, sales were up 128.2 percent year-on-year from May 1 to 5.

Large discount stores also saw sales to Chinese buyers increase. At Lotte Mart, purchases by Chinese consumers jumped 51.5 percent between April 28 and May 6 while sales from Japanese customers dropped 37.6 percent over the same period last year. And for the first time, the volume of this year’s accumulated sales from Chinese consumers from Jan. 1 to May 6 was 21.8 percent higher than that of Japanese customers.

“The number of Chinese tourists has increased steadily in recent years with the growing popularity of K-pop and Korean dramas,” said an official from Lotte Mart. “As for Japan, its relations with Korea have been quite thorny over historical issues, which has reduced the number of Japanese tourists coming in to Korea. Also, the yen isn’t favorable to them.”

According to the Korea Tourism Organization, from January to March this year, 1.05 million Chinese tourists arrived in Korea, up 44.9 percent from the previous year. The number of Japanese tourists, however, dropped 14.5 percent over the same period to 610,000.

By LEE EUN-JOO [angie@joongang.co.kr]


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