Retail in Asia

In Trends

Global Blue: 5 challenges for tax-free retailers in Asia

Global Blue Tax Free Shopping

Tax free shopping sales in Asia fell -7% year-on-year in September, compared to declines of -13% in August, according to Global Blue.

The number of transactions dropped -3%, while average spend was also down -4% over the same period. Global Blue said Singapore, Japan and South Korea all saw declining tax free sales for the first time in three years.

In Europe, tax free shopping declined -5% year-on-year during September, compared to -3% in August. European transactions were down -10%, but average spend was up +5% year-on-year.

In Asia

Global Blue said the increase in arrivals by middle-class Chinese travellers supported growth in tax free sales and the number of regional transactions, but was not enough to offset the decline in spend in Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

SEE ALSO: Chinese tourists’ luxury spending soars, says Global Blue

Both Japan and South Korea saw a -9% dip in sales, while in Singapore sales fell -7%.

The positive momentum seen earlier in the year has now gone, Global Blue said, reflected by the deep drop in average spend in Japan of -30% year, and the -13% fall in South Korea.

In these two countries, the rise in arrivals was offset by the decline in average spend as a result of the strengthening currency in both countries. In September, the Japanese yen was +21% and the Korean won was +10% against the Chinese yuan, Global Blue noted.


  • The Chinese traveller profile has shifted towards value seekers and experiential Free Independent Travellers
  • Millennials and Free Independent Travellers prefer more niche or independent fashion and luxury retailers
  • With increasing numbers of less affluent Chinese arriving in Singapore from second- and third-tier cities, the country’s duty free retailers have been slow to offer a more diverse retail mix
  • Tourists arriving on overland tours take in cheaper markets than those higher-spending visitors who arrive by air.
  • Concerns over the Zika virus outbreak in Singapore, which is reducing visitor numbers

For European tax free shopping patterns, continue reading the article here.