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Xinhua Insight: Chinese shoppers offer glimmer of hope for gloomy economy

English.news.cn   2012-10-10 15:26:57            

SHANGHAI, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Banking authorities said overseas trading volume by Chinese bank card holders increased by 33 percent year on year during the autumn holiday season, bringing a fresh driving force to the sluggish global economy.

Trade volume generated by Chinese in western Asia and the east Mediterranean, including Jordan and Lebanon, also saw an increase from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7, according to statistics released by China UnionPay (CUP), a bank card service provider.

At the Ritz Hotel in London, the number of guests from the Chinese mainland has surged by 75 percent since September 2011, according to Stephen A. Boxall, managing director of the hotel.

The tourism bureau of Australia said Chinese tourists bring nearly 4.2 billion U.S. dollars to the country every year, helping to boost the development of domestic industries.

Reports from the National Tourism Administration of China indicate that the number of Chinese tourists traveling overseas in 2011 reached 70.25 million, up 22 percent from a year earlier. The number of Chinese tourists visiting foreign countries in 2012 is expected to reach 77 million.

Chinese tourists are known for their taste for luxury goods, as these goods are more expensive in China due to high tariff rates.

Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), a French luxury retailer, has created sales promotions for Chinese holidays and established a tax-free shopping center. Galeries Lafayette, another French luxury store, has hired Chinese-speaking clerks to cater to surging numbers of Chinese customers.

Ma Li, a tour guide from Shanghai China Travel International Ltd., led a group of Chinese tourists travling to the United States during the recent holiday.

"Most of the luxury shops in the United States didn't have Chinese-speaking salesmen three or four years ago. But more shops have started to employ shopping guides especially for Chinese customers," Ma said.

Chinese tourists have been warmly welcomed by European countries and the United States since the onset of the global financial crisis, Ma said.

British retailers are looking to Chinese customers to help them out of their current difficulties, appointing Chinese-speaking assistants and providing discounts for Chinese shoppers. The British media coined the term "Peking Pound" during the 2010 Christmas holiday season to describe the significant purchasing power of Chinese consumers.

Statistics from Global Blue, a tax-free shopping company, showed that the trade volume of luxury goods purchased by Chinese consumers accounted for half of the entire volume of the European market in 2011.

Most Chinese customers prefer to spend their money on high-end leather products, watches, cosmetics and accessories, said Zeng Mingyue, a researcher specializing in luxury goods at the University of International Business and Economics.

Although most Chinese consumers are not particularly wealthy, their increasing incomes and optimistic expectations have led them to buy more luxury items, Zeng said.

Although Western countries certainly have their share of luxury consumers, the group has shrunk due to worsening economies in those countries.

Chinese tourists boost local economies when they travel, winning affirmation from foreign governments and academics, said Sun Lijian, a professor of economics at Fudan University.

"China's purchasing power is not only fueling global economic growth, but also boosting employment in foreign countries," Sun said.

Figures from the Ministry of Commerce indicate that domestic trading volume during the autumn holiday season amounted to 800 billion yuan, an increase of 15 percent year on year. However, it also marked the lowest growth rate since 2007.

Sun said China should establish tax-free stores and develop domestic high-end brands in order to attract its own consumers and spur the economy.

Chen Guo, a researcher at GF Securities, said the government should create a looser consumption environment, lower tariffs and import more luxury goods to keep wealthy shoppers at home.

Editor: znz
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