Chinese Luxury Shoppers Outspend Japanese 2-To-1 At South Korean Malls

Wealthy Chinese Travelers In Korea Favor Cosmetics, Children’s Supplies, Ginseng And Healthcare Products, Luxury Watches

Chinese tourists spend around twice as much at South Korean malls, per person, as Japanese tourists in South Korea

Chinese tourists spend around twice as much at South Korean malls, per person, as Japanese tourists in South Korea

This type of story is verging on overkill, but the ascent of Chinese outbound travelers — and their buying trends — has been one of the big developments in the global luxury industry over the past few years. (Particularly over the last 18 months or so.) Since we keep a close eye on Chinese consumer behavior, Jing Daily’s no stranger to this kind of story, having featured articles about Chinese shoppers raiding French Duty-Free shops in 2009; inspiring a new nickname — “hawks” (hao ke, or “luxury buyers”) — in Hong Kong; and, hell, while we’re at it, “saving the day” for the entire luxury industry.

This week, more news about free-spending mainland Chinese tourists came out of South Korea. As more Chinese tourists have headed outward, most of them staying relatively close to home, the Korean media has consistently framed news about tourist behavior as a sort of rivalry between China and Japan — a phenomenon Jing Daily discussed last fall. (“Tourist Profile: Japanese vs. Chinese“)

According to Tencent (via Yonhap), after a year in which the number (and profligacy) of Chinese tourists increased at Korean luxury malls, shoppers from mainland China now account for twice as many sales per capita as Japanese tourists. From the article (translation by Jing Daily team):

With the rapid growth of China’s economy and the appreciation of the RMB, Chinese tourists have become the largest group of foreign shoppers at South Korean shopping malls and department stores. The spending of Chinese tourists over the last year makes Japanese tourists look “stingy” in comparison, and now Chinese shoppers are getting VIP treatment in Korea.

According to a commodities industry dispatch this week, at Lotte Mall [in Seoul] Chinese made up 14.6% of foreign clients in the first quarter of last year, but after the yen began to depreciate and Japanese tourist arrivals went down, Chinese shoppers made up 28.9% of purchases in the second quarter.

In the third quarter of 2009, as even more Chinese tourists traveled to South Korea, the proportion of sales to this group rose to 40.4%, a number that went as high as 47% in the fourth quarter. In January of this year, purchases by Chinese tourists accounted for some 46.2% of the total — basically the same as those by Japanese tourists.

According to Lotte Mall’s analysis, Japanese tourists tend to decide what purchases they’re going to make before they go shopping, while Chinese people prefer to shop in a more loose and “ad hoc” manner, deciding on purchases once they’re at the mall.

The products Chinese buyers like the most are cosmetics, women’s clothing, kid’s clothing, red ginseng and healthcare products, but lots of shoppers also like to buy gifts for their children, wedding accessories, everyday supplies and high-priced watches.

All in all, Chinese tourists’ per-capita spending in South Korea is now around double that of the Japanese.

According to the New World Department Store, the number of Chinese visitors has already surpassed the number of Japanese, making the Chinese this mall’s “#1 Foreign Shopper.”

In the first quarter of last year, the proportion of spending by Japanese and Chinese tourists was 61% to 39%, respectively, but at last count this ratio has changed to a respective proportion of 23% to 77%.

[These numbers are important because] the number of Chinese tourists that usually shop at [the New World Department Store] is around 200 or so per day, which means that — per capita — Chinese visitors are spending as much as 1-2 million won (US$863-1,726) per trip. It’s not even unusual for some Chinese shoppers to buy upwards of 1 billion won (US$863,100) worth of goods in one day.

As usual, this story inspires a mix of responses from Chinese netizens, with this video on Youku provoking comments like:

“Korea’s making a fortune off of you guys!吐” (From commenter 你好吗?大海)

“I’m not crazy about the idea of spending money abroad, but Chinese products are sorta crappy, so I guess if I had the money I’d just buy Japan or Korea.” (firewin)

“It’s just because China’s population is huge, and nothing more. And anyway, part of it’s because things in Korea are nicer than in China.” (1048925140)

If products made in China were as good as those made by others, no one would decide to travel abroad!” (m135790)

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