SEOUL, April 28 (Korea Bizwire) — 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.
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.