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Duty-free shops suffer sharp drop in sales amid coronavirus outbreak

All News 09:07 April 28, 2020

SEOUL, April 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korean duty-free stores saw their sales drop sharply in March due to the spread of the new coronavirus, industry data showed Tuesday.

Combined sales of local duty-free shops shrank 1.3 percent on-month to 1.8 trillion won (US$1.5 billion) last month, according to the data from the Korea Duty Free Shops Association. The number is down 46.2 percent from January, the data showed.

The number of visitors at duty-free outlets came to 587,879 last month, also down from 1.75 million in February, with foreigners accounting for 45 percent of the total.

This photo, taken April 23, 2020, shows a downtown outlet of SM Duty-Free Shop in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Industry sources voiced concerns that duty-free shops may see their sales shrink in April, given flight suspensions and travel bans across the globe.

"Duty-free shops are expected to take a harder hit in April as entrants are under mandatory self-isolation measures, coupled with flight suspensions," said an official of the local duty-free shop who asked not to be named.

Sales of duty-free shops have been hurt by the fast spread of COVID-19 since late January, which has made it impossible for small-scale Chinese vendors, their major customers, to visit South Korea.

Those Chinese vendors sell their duty-free purchases in large quantities, mostly cosmetic products, to consumers back home.


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