Business / Christmas business

Chinese break Christmas shopping record

By Cecily Liu (China Daily) Updated: 2012-01-28 10:41

Spending abroad rose despite poor global economy

LONDON - Despite the current global economic downturn, Chinese tourists spent a record-breaking amount on luxury products abroad during Christmas, according to data from Global Blue, one of the world's largest tax-refund and shopping services providers.

Global Blue estimates Chinese shoppers' tax-free spending globally in December to be more than $170 million.

Chinese tourists' transactions made through Global Blue have recorded a 65 percent increase from December 2010, and account for 24 percent of the company's global tax-free transactions, compared with 18 percent in December 2010 and 12 percent in December 2008.

The figures show they are the largest demographic of tax-free shoppers, ahead of Russians, who consumed 16 percent of tax-free goods, and Indonesian and Japanese shoppers, who each accounted for 5 percent.

Richard Brown, vice-president of Global Blue UK, told China Daily that last month's figures highlight the wealth and spending power of tourists, especially Chinese shoppers, who spent an average of $1,142 for each transaction in the United Kingdom last month, a 19 percent year-on-year increase.

This puts them just behind Middle Eastern tourists, who spent $1,179, the highest amount for each transaction.

Meanwhile, Britain witnessed another disappointing Christmas with retail sales value increasing by only 4.1 percent year-on-year, according to statistics from the British Retail Consortium.

"With consumer confidence returning to levels last seen during the recession, 2012 is expected to be an equally challenging year," said Stephen Robertson, director-general of the British Retail Consortium.

But many luxury retailers have brushed aside the pessimism and are working to attract Chinese shoppers with new initiatives during this month's Spring Festival.

The luxury department store Harrods in London released a collection of investment-grade gold bars, each inscribed with an image of a dragon.

"Gold is a very special purchase in the Year of the Dragon, so we are very proud to offer our Chinese customers the very best ingots," said Chris Hall, head of Harrods Gold Bullion.

Selfridges, also a luxury department store in central London, erected a large dragon in its main hall to greet shoppers.

When Selfridges held a post-Christmas sale last year, Chinese tourists were credited for the store's most profitable period in its history, raking in 1.3 million pounds ($2.03 million) in an hour.

Illustrating the growing influence of Chinese shoppers abroad, even Britain's official postal service Royal Mail released a set of dragon stamps this week, featuring the iconic Chinese dragon in scenes taken in UK cities.

Recognizing the purchasing power of Chinese tourists, Angela Ahrendts, CEO of the fashion brand Burberry, calls them the "traveling luxury consumers".

"When Chinese consumers travel, they spend six times more than when they stay at home," Ahrendts was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.

Gordon Innes, CEO of London & Partners, the capital's official promotional organization, said China is viewed as a "lucrative tourism prospect" for London's economy.

"In the year ending September 2011, visitor arrivals increased by about 40 percent with the average stay length among Chinese visitors twice the average of all overseas tourists, making them prodigious spenders," he added.

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