China’s notoriously high tariffs on foreign luxury goods have made shopping a key travel motivator for Chinese tourists headed abroad. As a growing number of middle-class Chinese consumers travel internationally, their price-conscious mindset is sending them to luxury outlets in Europe in record numbers.
According to a new report by luxury outlet developer McArthurGlen, Chinese spending on tax-free sales skyrocketed by 270 percent in 2012 and 2013. Chinese visitors make 20 percent of all tax-free purchases at the company’s outlets throughout Europe, and the number is 10 times higher for its stores in Italy. Chinese New Year was especially fruitful for the outlet, which ran a promotion for the holiday period, when tax-free sales increased by almost 50 percent.
The report also surveyed Chinese customers on their shopping and travel habits, finding that shopping comes second after sightseeing as their most popular holiday activity. It found that one in three Chinese tourists visiting Europe over a 12-month period paid a visit to a designer outlet village, and consumers from second-tier Chinese cities are also joining their peers from Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou in record numbers on European shopping trips.
“From our experience, the Chinese love to shop for fashions for themselves and family and friends when they travel,” said Julia Calabrese, the CEO of McArthurGlen Group. “They look to buy that sought-after European luxury brand when in Europe, while, at the same time, avoiding the steep import duties back home. It’s about providing an authentic shopping experience at bargain prices.”