Deep-pocketed Chinese tourists coming to Korea lately are different from those in the past, in that many of the former have good knowledge of the latest shopping trends. They prefer brands relatively unknown in China over more famous labels such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
According to Shinsegae Department Store’s main outlet in downtown Seoul, many Chinese who shopped there during this week’s Lunar New Year holiday looked for designer brands such as Alexander McQueen and Emilio Pucci. Chinese shoppers snapped up all eight eagle-patterned belts imported to Korea and made by Italian luxury men’s clothing brand Stefano Ricci, which opened its lone branch in Korea at Galleria Department Store’s Luxury Hall. The belt is priced at 1.89 million won (1,683 U.S. dollars).
“Cosmetics accounted for a big part of our sales over the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year’s Day) last year,” said a source at the Shilla Duty-Free Shop. “This year, we`ve seen noticeable increases in the sale of luxury watches and bags.”
Chinese tourists are generally very sensitive about price, meticulously checking information on discounts or giveaways. One Chinese at the Lotte Duty Free in downtown Seoul purchased 3,000 dollars’ worth of cosmetics made by Korean company Amore Pacific because they are cheaper than the same products sold in China and come with more gifts.
Over the Lunar New Year holiday, certain Chinese swept up daily necessities sold at large discount stores. Between Jan. 20 and 24, Lotte Mart store at Seoul Station sold 60 percent of a particular brand of sanitary pads to Chinese customers. At E-Mart stores on Jeju Island, Gimpo International Airport and eastern Incheon, many Chinese shoppers were seen buying rubber gloves in bulk as gifts.
“Chinese tourists tend to shop with particular brands in mind, as they`ve grown more aware of Korean products and various luxury brands,” said a source at Lotte Department Store.
Increased consumption of luxury items is also attributable to a rise in conspicuous consumers who post about their travels on social networking sites or blogs.
Korean department stores, which have seen their sales decrease amid an economic slowdown, have greatly benefited from Chinese shoppers. From Jan. 19-24, Lotte Department Store’s main outlet in downtown Seoul saw about a 30-percent increase in the number of Chinese shoppers. Over this year`s Lunar New Year holiday shopping season, sales of Lotte Duty Free Store tripled from the same period last year (Feb. 1-5). Shilla Duty Free Shop also said its sales to Chinese shoppers surged 272.9 percent in the same period.
Many Chinese visited ski resorts near Seoul or in Gangwon Province during the holiday season. Staying at ski resorts, they opted to go to water parks or spas nearby, as word of mouth has spread among Chinese about the safety and abundant auxiliary facilities at Korean ski resorts.
Lee So-hee, an overseas marketing official for Gangwon Province, said, “This year, there are more products focusing on experiencing ski resorts, water parks or spas, breaking away from the usual sightseeing courses at Mount Seorak or on Nami Island. As many Chinese prefer luxury experience-based tour products, an increasing number of them opt to stay overnight than just do a single-day trip.”
Chinese tourists are also swarming to luxury spas where Japanese tourists have long been the main customers. Dozens of Chinese reportedly paid 10 million won (8,905 dollars) each for a luxury package at Possom Prestige, a posh anti-aging clinic and spa at the Ritz-Carlton Seoul.