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Chinese tourists fueling boom at Korea`s duty-free stores

by 조니정 JONY JUNG 2012. 1. 17.
Lotte Duty Free Shop has seen sales double in three years since posting annual sales of under 500 billion won (434 million U.S. dollars) in 2008. Its sales jumped by 17.4 percent year-on-year to 2.7 trillion won (2.34 billion dollars) last year.
The significant gains in Lotte`s sales mainly stem from the surge in the number of Chinese tourists, who are flocking to Korean duty-free stores en masse. Such establishments do not sell counterfeit products and prices of luxury brand goods there are far cheaper than in China.

The strong yen and Japan`s nuclear accident last year also prompted more Chinese to visit Korea. To attract more Chinese tourists, Lotte opened information offices in Shanghai in 2009 and Beijing last year to conduct tourist counseling. It has offered in recent months tumblers featuring Korean celebrities and wines to foreigners who buy 500 dollars or more in an aggressive, successful marketing campaign.

Kim Ju-nam, marketing team chief of the Lotte Department Store, said, “The share of sales to Chinese customers out of our overall sales increased from 8 percent in 2010 to 15 percent last year,” adding, “Sales to Koreans declined about 10 percent due to the bad economy, but the drop was more than compensated by gains in sales to Chinese."

Air Star Avenue, the duty-free store run by Incheon Airport Authority, saw sales jump by 16.7 percent year-on-year to 1.53 billion dollars last year, ranking first among duty-free stores in the world and beating out its counterpart at the Dubai airport. Air Star`s stellar performance at the Incheon airport was also thanks to a rise of 18.4 percent in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Korea to 2.22 million last year.

The introduction of a Louis Vuitton store by Shilla Duty Free Shop at the Incheon airport in a world first also contributed to great strides. Last year, the French luxury brand posted daily average sales of 300 million (260,000 dollars) to 350 million won (300,000 dollars) there, which translates into more than 100 billion won (87 million dollars) in annual sales. Louis Vuitton`s success was also largely the result of Chinese tourists, whose per capita consumption grew about 70 percent last year. Due to the effect of Louis Vuitton, Shilla posted 1.7 trillion won (1.47 billion dollars) in annual sales last year (based on estimates by securities companies), up 17 percent from the previous year.

The duty-free sales industry is staging intense competition to expand their stores to attract foreign tourists as patrons. Lotte expanded its Sogong-dong branch in Seoul to 8,581 square meters early this year from spaces on the ninth and 10th floors (7,603 square meters) of Lotte Department Store in Seoul. Lotte Duty Free Shop expanded space by transforming a food court on the 11th floor, which was less profitable, into duty-free stores. Its duty-free shop will be expanded at the theme park Lotte World, where it only uses the 10th floor (4,100 square meters) for duty-free stores, by including the ninth floor (1,652 square meters) in the first half.

Walker-Hill Duty Free Shop plans remodeling to transform “Walker Hill Theater,” home of the “Walker-Hill Show,” into a duty-free store and casino in this year’s first half. Walker-Hill will also renovate its existing duty-free store to open the facilities anew when the makeover is completed next year.

news from: http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?bicode=020000&biid=2012011738778

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