South Korean duty-free operators are eyeing best-ever sales this year, helped by a shopping spree from Chinese individuals capitalizing on the cheap Korean won.
Sales of Korean duty-free shops reached $12.9 billion in the January-September period, already topping the record-high revenue of $12.8 billion for full 2017, according to the Korea Duty Free Association on Tuesday.
The feat comes despite the sharp fall in the number of Chinese travelers to Korea following Beijing’s package tour ban imposed in March 2017 in retaliation over Seoul’s installment of a U.S.-backed missile shield.
Duty-free stores managed to enjoy solid sales thanks to individual Chinese merchants, called daigou, making mass purchases to resell in China.
Sales rose at a particularly strong clip this year, hitting a monthly high in January at $1.38 billion and again in March at $1.56 billion. September sales also exceeded $1.5 billion.
The number of foreign duty-free shoppers in September totaled 1.51 million, up 300,000 from the same period a year ago. In contrast, Korean shoppers fell by 200,000 to 2.46 million over the same period.
Duty-free operators expect sales to pick up pace in the fourth quarter as China further eases its travel restrictions. Last week, 600 employees from a Chinese cosmetics company visited Korea on a corporate incentive program, in what was the largest group tour to Korea since the March ban.
[ⓒ Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]