In big German cities, tourists from China are an important source of income for retailers. These customers from the Far East however expect to be courted and looked-after - as it's done in Munich and Frankfurt.
They come from far-off places and often know exactly what they want. Jewelers and shoe shops, delicatessen stores and perfumeries along with many other shops have made good profits from visitors from the USA, Russia, Japan, the Gulf States, but most of all, from China.
The Bavarian Retail Association has now, for the first time, conducted a survey into the shopping behavior of Chinese tourists. Association spokesman Bernd Ohlmann said that even though only 153 Chinese took part in the survey, the results are consistent with the experiences of retailers. Chinese tourists in Munich, according to the survey, spend an average of 513 euros ($558) a day, which means that they have bumped the strong contingent of Arab shoppers, with an average daily spending of 367 euros, off first place.
Chinese visitors are not just interested in luxury goods either, as they like to shop in department stores and outlets that fall into the mid-range price category. At the top of their shopping list, according to the survey, are food, clothes and cosmetics, but also shoes, watches and jewelry.
Shopping list from the internet
The study also found that Chinese tourists don't wait for shop window displays to entice them to spend money, as most of them already know ahead of their arrival what they want to purchase and plan carefully which shops they want to visit. On average, Chinese tourists visit four stores on every shopping day, preferably in Munich's city center.
Ohlmann says that when preparing their visit, the most relied on source of information is no longer the trusted traditional travel guide but rather the internet. A good, ideally multilingual internet presence, which most German retailers still lack, is therefore of vital importance for over the counter trade - especially considering that the greatest obstacle cited by Chinese visitors in the survey was communication difficulties.
Power shopping before departure
Retailers who have recognized this problem now help their guests from around the world by providing special shopping consultants. They are not only aware of the guests' cultural customs and possible pitfalls, but also have a clear idea of the tourists' preferences as well as serving as negotiators between the sales staff and visiting foreign customers.
Frankfurt Airport has been offering this kind of service to Chinese tourists, free of charge, since 2012. Günther Rupp from Airport Staff, the company that offers this service on behalf of airport operator Fraport, says that it has proved to be hugely popular. From the beginning, there have been nine staff members on duty at the airport to take care of thousands of Chinese tourists. Apart from shopping advice, they also help the tourists with value added tax refunds or questions on customs regulations. Guided shopping sprees for tourists organized by tour operators have also become standard procedure.
Hands-on still beats online shopping
The outlook for luxury goods stores is very positive, according to Serge Hoffmann, a retail expert at Bain Management Consultancy. He estimates that online trade - with the exception of few product groups like books or music - will in the future never exceed 20 to 30 percent of the retail market - because nothing will fully replace the shopping experience and sales advice that you get in stores. Therefore stores and retailers will continue to be an important outlet for leading producers of luxury items. "These stores first and foremost serve as brand promoters who can offer a hands-on experience of luxury," says Hoffmann.
After all, customers will never be able to actually touch the luxury leather bag or the fine silk material online - to feel the quality they have to be there in the real world.
Christine Schultze/sbc (dpa)