U.S. Retailers Recognize Golden Week’s Heavy Influence

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Despite an economic slowdown and the Chinese central government’s ongoing frugality campaign, retail sales on the mainland grew during Golden Week this year. National retail spending rose 13.6 percent from the year before to $142 billion, a slight slowdown from the 15 percent growth recorded in 2012, when Golden Week was one day longer and coincided with the Mid-Autumn Festival. Heavy discounting on clothing, shoes, jewelry, electronics and home appliances was largely responsible for the increase in holiday retail spending, according to a report released last Monday by China’s Ministry of Commerce.

Meanwhile in the United States, retailers and hoteliers were ramping up efforts to attract valuable Chinese customers, as tourists expressed anger at the U.S. government shutdown, which closed off many of American’s most popular sightseeing attractions.

At TRUMP SoHo New York, guests who booked during the Golden Week received $100 credit for the hotel spa, as well as a shopping card for discounts to luxury stores including Bloomingdale’s, DKNY, and La Perla. Trump SoHo New York recently began offering Chinese cuisine on its in-room dining menu and launched a Chinese-language option on its website. The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park also offered a Golden Week package that included a five-night stay, airport transport, and a four-hour private luxury shopping tour.

Stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s won’t comment on Golden Week sales, but New York’s luxury stores and hotels are making greater efforts to attract Chinese customers. At Bloomingdale’s 59th Street, for example, there are two international specialists who speak Mandarin and cater to Chinese clients.

“This time of year is a popular travel time” for Chinese travelers, says Chris Heywood, Senior VP Communications for NYC & Company, New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization. “More of our retailers are catering more to the Chinese traveler.”

The number of Chinese visiting New York City has grown significantly over the last decade, with an estimated 514,000 Chinese making trips to the city in 2012, up 27 percent from the year before, according to data by NYC & Company. New York is the second most popular destination for Chinese tourists after Los Angeles. The overall growth in tourism is partially due to the United States’ Approved Destination Status for Chinese tourists, which was granted in 2008, as well as U.S. efforts to make obtaining a visa smoother and quicker for Chinese.

Wealthy Chinese visitors to the United States spend nearly $2,500 on shopping per day, per person, according to research by Nihao Media. The most popular items purchased by travelers include watches, accessories, cosmetics, clothing, and shoes. Luxury goods in the United States can cost up to 30-40 percent less than on the mainland because of high taxes in China.

According to the hotel booking website Hotels.com, Las Vegas was the fifth most visited destination this year for Chinese tourists during the holiday, the only North American city on the list. (Hong Kong, Seoul, and Taipei topped the list, which was dominated by Asian cities.) In San Francisco, the Westfield San Francisco Center offered translation services, special packages, and promotions for Chinese tourists. Bloomingdale’s in the city put up in-store signage and offered language assistance from more than 20 Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking employees. Chinese make up 20 percent of all tourists that visit San Francisco.

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