SEOUL, May 25 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean duty-free stores saw their sales drop sharply below the 1 trillion-won (US$804 million) mark in April, feeling the pinch of the fallout from the new coronavirus, industry data showed Tuesday.
Combined sales of local duty-free shops shrank 9.2 percent on-month to 986.7 billion won last month, according to the data from the Korea Duty Free Shops Association. The number halved from January, the data showed.
The number of visitors to duty-free outlets came to around 354,000 last month, sharply down from 587,000 in March, with foreigners accounting for 33 percent of the total.
Duty-free shops may see their sales shrink in May as well, given continued flight suspensions and travel bans across the globe.
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 in large quantities, mostly cosmetic products, 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.