Reports

    Chinese Shoppers Raid French Duty-Free In 2009: Report

    Last year, Chinese outbound travelers outspent inbound travelers to China for the first time, parting ways with more than $40 billion overseas, and if the results of a new report are any indication, a sizeable piece of that money went towards duty-free shopping.

    Chinese Travelers Spent $222.5 Million US On Duty-Free Shopping In France Last Year, Up 47% From 2008#

    Outbound Chinese travelers have -- rightly -- developed a reputation for spending heavily on their international vacations, motivated by high luxury taxes at home, friends' requests, and the imperative to return home with armfuls of foreign luxury goods. In 2009, as we wrote earlier this week, Chinese outbound travelers outspent inbound travelers to China for the first time, parting ways with more than $40 billion overseas, and if the results of a report released today by Global Refund (a company that specializes in duty-free shopping for tourists) are any indication, a sizable piece of that $40 billion went towards duty-free shopping.

    As the AFP notes today, though the figures that show Chinese travelers are spending more on duty-free may not come as a shock -- considering more mainland Chinese than ever are taking overseas vacations -- their spending in contrast to other solid duty-free shoppers, like Russians, stands out:

    The economic crisis caused Russians to curb their spending, which dropped by 22.7 percent to 111 million euros, according to the study, which was based on figures collected by stores partnering with Global Refund.



    Chinese tourists spent on average 1,071 euros on tax-free goods last year, while Russians shelled out 1,055 euros each.



    "The increase from the Chinese is not surprising. What was unexpected was the fall in business done with the Russians," Jean-Marc Leroy, director general of Global Refund France, told AFP.



    Tax-free shopping by Chinese tourists has been increasing for the last two years, rising by 39 percent in 2007 and 23.3 percent in 2008. They now represent 15 percent of sales and 13 percent of transactions.

    While these figures are intriguing, it might be wise to avoid reading too much into them. As the study was, as the article points out, based on figures collected by stores partnering with Global Refund, it's difficult to determine whether the study is truly comprehensive or reflective of a broader global trend. Clearly, Chinese shoppers have become the darlings of the duty-free industry over the past few years, though -- CITS recently announced plans to build the world's largest duty-free shop in Sanya, Hainan province, and duty-free shops in Hong Kong and Macau have long enjoyed the stream of mainland shoppers that reguarly unload piles of cash on weekend cross-border shopping sprees.

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