Nov 18, 2010
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Chinese visitors boost S.Korea Oct dept store sales

Nov 18, 2010

SEOUL, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Annual sales growth at major South Korean department store chains rose to an eight-month high in October, led by clothing sales and by purchases of luxury goods by Chinese tourists, data showed on Thursday.

Shinsegae department store

Chinese visitors who traveled to South Korea during their week-long National Day holidays last month led a surge in luxury goods sales, which leapt 21.1 percent, their sharpest rate in more than a year, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement.

About 50 million Chinese are expected to travel abroad this year and the number is seen rising to 130 million by 2015, with Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea set to benefit most from their visit, HSBC economist Frederic Neumann said. "That's the trend that is likely to continue. By 2020, 210 million Chinese will be visiting countries in their neighbourhood," the managing director and co-head of HSBC's Asian Economic Research told a media briefing in Seoul. Chinese tourists spend 20 percent more on average than U.S. tourists, but Beijing's efforts to tame inflation may slow consumer spending growth in the world's No. 2 economy. "Rising inflation tends to slow down consumption spending... The (Chinese) government needs to cool the economy down and to prevent inflation coming strong," Neumann said. Sales at three department store operators -- Lotte Shopping, Shinsegae and Hyundai Department Store -- grew 13.3 percent last month from the year-ago period.

The yearly growth was the biggest since a 15.2 percent rise in February, adding to signs of resilient private consumption.

By contrast, sales at discount stores were flat in October, posting their weakest monthly performance since a 13.4 percent drop in January.

(Reporting by Kim Yeonhee; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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