In Markets

Korean travel retail sales increase while growth slows

South Korea’s duty free industry saw total sales grow by +30.9% or $2.5bn to a record-breaking $10.6bn in 2016, although senior sources in Seoul tell TRBusiness that sales growth is expected to slow to between 10% to 15% in 2017 – resulting in incremental sales of between $1bn to $1.5bn.

These estimates nevertheless assume that foreign tourist numbers (primarily Mainland Chinese) continue to increase in 2017 as expected.

According to senior sources in Seoul, foreign visitors’ duty free purchases amounted to US$7.6bn in 2016, accounting for 72% of South Korea’s total US$10.6bn purchases last year. This sales result includes contributions from all airport, seaport and downtown shops (including internet) sales and ‘domestic duty free’ sales on Jeju Island, although it excludes inflight duty free sales.

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Highlighting the dependence on foreign tourists for duty free growth, South Korean travellers’ share of sales came in at $2.9bn last year, which was equivalent to 28% of the national duty free revenue total.

Foreign and South Korean customers each accounted for half of the country’s total airport duty free sales that were worth $2.4 billion in total in 2016, of which the major share was recorded at Incheon International Airport.

Meanwhile, government policy to increase the number of duty free operator licenses in an effort to reduce large conglomerates’ dominance of the domestic duty free market has led to increased competition.


(Source: TR Business)

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