Chinese shoppers send sales soaring

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Chinese shoppers send sales soaring

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Panda bears line up in a parade organized by a local department store in Myeong-dong, central Seoul, on Oct. 1 to attract Chinese customers who visited Korea during their national holiday period. By Kim Kyung-bin

More than 100,000 Chinese tourists who visited during the Incheon Asian Games and China’s national holidays in the first week of October fueled a jump in sales at major local department stores and duty-free shops.

Department stores reported a sales increase of 60 to 80 percent during the peak of the holiday period, Oct. 1 through Sunday.

The sporting event ran from Sept. 19 until Oct. 4; China’s National Day holiday period, often called Golden Week, was from Oct. 1 through 7.

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) estimated that a total of 160,000 Chinese tourists visited between the beginning of the Games and Tuesday.

Lotte Department Store said sales made via China UnionPay credit cards increased 87.2 percent between Oct. 1 and 5 over the same period last year, accounting for 19.9 percent of all sales. UnionPay is a payment service used by most Chinese people.

Hyundai Department Store also saw its sales surge. It said that sales processed with UnionPay were up 86.2 percent from Oct. 1 through Sunday. The most sought-after products included apparel from designer brands, followed by cosmetics and child-related items, a Hyundai official said.

“The branches near Gangnam District saw a surge in the number of Chinese visitors and exceptional sales growth,” said the official, requesting anonymity.

“For example, there was an 80 percent increase [over last year] in the number of visitors at the branches in Apgujeong-dong and Samseong-dong. This is because the district is home to many plastic surgery clinics and showbiz agencies, which reflects tourists’ interests.”

Shinsegae also reported a significant rise in sales. Its sales to Chinese tourists in the first five days of October increased 62.7 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Women’s apparel showed a 108.3 percent sales increase over a year ago and cosmetics rose 66.3 percent.

The country’s duty-free shops also benefited from the inflow of Chinese visitors. Lotte Duty Free Shop said sales made with UnionPay cards jumped 35 percent while Shilla Duty Free Shop recorded a 75 percent rise.

Local food franchises that also operate in China saw their sales rise. Chinese branches of Mr. Pizza marked a 115 percent, or 7.4 million yuan ($1.2 million), surge in sales year-on-year for the first five days of October, according to MPK Group, which operates the pizza franchise.

MPK has 45 stores in China and plans to open 300 more branches there by 2016.

No exact data is available for the number of Chinese tourists to Korea over the holiday season, but the China Tourism Academy said it expected 480 million Chinese to travel between Oct. 1 and 7 - 13 percent more than last year.

The KTO said that the number of Chinese tourists surpassed 130,000 from Oct. 1 to 5.

Meanwhile, because of the rising number of tourists, the government said yesterday it is considering increasing the number of duty-free shops, especially in downtown Seoul.

The plan was discussed in an economic ministerial meeting yesterday led by Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, following suggestions that local businesses would benefit if there were more duty-free shops for Chinese tourists.

There are 42 duty-free shops nationwide with 17 in the downtown area.

The Korean Customs Service, which authorizes new duty-free shops, said that it has not decided when and where new duty-free shops will open, but it is discussing the plan.


BY PARK EUn-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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