The big deal

Updated: 2011-12-02 09:05

By Zhao Yanrong (China Daily)

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The big deal

Shopping still the main draw for Chinese tourists to US

Frenetic late-night shopping is a distinct feature of Black Friday, when throngs of shoppers march to stores nationwide in the United States, grabbing incredible discounts and deals every year on Thanksgiving night. Amid the excitement and buzz of shoppers in the dimly lit Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, a well-known outlet in Central Valley, New York, several greetings in Chinese rang loud and clear during the early hours of early Nov 25.

"What did you get?" was one of the questions posed by a Chinese shopper to her friend.

"PRADA won't open till 5 am, so I grabbed a few Coach handbags first," her friend replied.

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Inside the Coach shop it was just 3 am, but most of the shoppers who thronged the store were Chinese tourists. Two Chinese women sat in a corner with almost 30 items, and were trying to figure out which ones they had to give up because of the store's purchase limitations.

A Chinese man in his early 40s was busy posing questions to most of the Chinese female shoppers in his strong Northeast Chinese accent: "Do you think a 20-year-old girl would like this bag?"

Despite the mad scramble, language barriers and drowsiness, there was no dearth of Chinese shoppers looking for bargains. For many of them, the idea of shopping in the US was the biggest draw as they waited patiently with bloodshot eyes.

"Every shop had long queues of Chinese tourists," says 29-year-old Hou Xiaoguang, a tourist from Beijing. "People are buying like everything is free!"

Hou spent his 13-day vacation in the US in November with his wife and a couple of his friends. They traveled from Beijing to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York.

"Prices of most of the big brands that are sold in the US outlets are much cheaper than in China. It is our first American trip," says Hou, after he and his wife spent nearly $10,000 on a single day's shopping in stores, a week before Thanksgiving.

According to Global Blue, the Switzerland-based tax refund and shopping service provider, the average spending of outbound Chinese tourists last year was $1,026, while those from Russia, the US and Japan were $508, $764, and $719 respectively.

Chinese tourists spent 107 percent more, year-on-year, on duty-free shopping abroad in 2010 compared to 2009, with shopping accounting for more than 70 percent of their total expenditure, according to data provided by ASTRIX, a marketing agency that specializes in tourism and luxury lifestyle.

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