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K-pop luring young Chinese shoppers to South Korea

K-pop is luring young Chinese shoppers to South Korea, fuelling the nation’s duty-free sector.

Chinese travellers in their 20s and 30s have emerged as the key customers for South Korean duty-free stores as they are enticed by Korean pop culture and shopping experiences here, industry officials revealed to Yonhap on Monday.

Local duty-free shops in the past mostly generated revenue from middle-aged Chinese travellers who bought foreign luxury bags and watches, but now they are embracing younger Chinese who prefer Korean cosmetics and fashion brands on the back of a rising influx of young independent travellers over the past years.

Hotel Shilla said that the 20s to 30s age group accounted for 76.5 per cent of Chinese customers at its duty-free store in Seoul in the first nine months of this year, overwhelming those in their 40s and 50s who comprised just 21.7 per cent.

Customers under the age of 40 only accounted for 34.1 per cent in 2009, but their ratio has steadily risen to 53.4 in 2011, 60 per cent in 2013 and 73.5 per cent last year. Among them, the ratio of 20-something Chinese has skyrocketed from 3.6 per cent in 2009 to 36 per cent this year, in stark contrast to the slow growth of middle-aged customers, the duty-free operator said.

“A growing number of younger Chinese who are fond of Korean pop culture are travelling here, changing the landscape of the duty-free market,” a company official said.

Lotte Duty Free, the nation’s leading player, also said the ratio of Chinese aged under 40 reached 86 per cent of the customer group at its duty-free stores in the first half of this year, while those in their 40s took up 13 per cent.

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