Duty-free sales in South Korea edged up in September on increased purchases by Chinese vendors, industry data showed Thursday.
Combined sales at duty-free shops in Asia's fourth-largest economy came to 1.48 trillion won ($1.31 billion) last month, up about 40 billion won from the previous month, according to the Korea Duty Free Shops Association.
It marked the fifth straight month of gains since April when sales fell below the 1 trillion-won threshold for the first time in four years.
Despite the slight gain, duty-free sales remained at two-thirds of pre-pandemic figures. In September last year, duty-free revenue reached 2.24 trillion won.
Spending by foreigners, especially Chinese vendors, accounted for the bulk of September's duty-free sales at 1.44 trillion won.
Foreigners' spending has been brisk despite a fall in the number of visitors to duty-free shops. Foreigners' per-capita spending hit a new high of some 21 million won last month, surpassing the 20 million-won mark for the first time.
The number of visitors to local duty-free shops came to 424,000 in September, down from 592,000 the previous month, according to the data.
Foreign shoppers numbered 66,000, down from about 75,000 in August. The number of foreign visitors has been on the decline since reaching 1.72 million in September last year.
Local duty-free shops have been struggling in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in a tumble in air travel. To tide over the pandemic fallout, they have come up with belt-tightening measures, including increasing the number of days that some outlets in major local cities close and cutting their overseas operations. (Yonhap)