SEOUL, June 28 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean duty-free stores saw their sales rebound slightly in May after dipping below the 1 trillion-won (US$804 million) mark in April amid the new coronavirus pandemic, industry data showed Sunday.
Combined sales of local duty-free shops rose 3 percent on-month to reach 1.02 trillion won, rebounding from 986.7 billion won in April, according to the data from the Korea Duty Free Shops Association.
The number of visitors to duty-free outlets came to some 466,000 last month, up from 354,000 the previous month.
Foreigners accounted for 19 percent of the total visitors last month, sharply down from 33 percent in April, which means locals made up a large share of the duty-free sales.
Sales of duty-free shops have been hurt by the 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, mostly cosmetic products, in large quantities to consumers back home.
The country’s two leading duty-free operators — Lotte Shopping and Hotel Shilla — earlier decided to give up their bids to operate stores at South Korea’s main airport, Incheon International Airport.
Duty-free operators started to sell duty-free products through local retail channels last week, as the government has decided to temporarily permit such sales to help the pandemic-hit sector.