The Fashion Outlets of Chicago received an added boost this holiday season from an influx of Chinese tourists, reports Crain’s Chicago Business. With prices – not to mention taxes – on luxury goods much lower in the United States than at home, Chicago’s new outlet, which opened in August, has magnetized Chinese consumers.
“The West Coast has Universal Studios and Vegas, but in Chicago there is nothing to do in the area outside the city, especially in the winter,” said Jeff Qui. Qui emigrated from southern China 15 years ago and runs Westmont-based R&J Tours, which plans excursions for Chinese tourists visiting the city. He said the Chinese do their research, however, and they come to Chicago knowing there is a shopping mall just yards from O’Hare International Airport.
“About 62 percent of all our tour groups are Chinese, and we anticipate that number growing as high as 80 percent as we become more established in the marketplace,” said Ann Ackerman, vice president of marketing at AWE Talisman, one of the Fashion Outlet of Chicago’s developers. She declined to say what percentage of sales was made to Chinese consumers, or how many tour groups will come through annually. She did say, however, that Chinese tourists tend to spend 50 percent more than any others.
“They are not rich, but they want to shop,” Qui said of his customers. His tours arrive at the Fashion Outlet by 10 A.M. The stores there have many Mandarin-speaking clerks, and the mall will check luggage and print boarding passes. Outlet managemet is encouraging stores to adopt China Union Pay for added convenience.
“Chinese shoppers are very familiar with the outlet concept. They enjoy the price and the selection—and they’re obligated to bring gifts back home,” Ackerman said, “It’s a perfect storm for us.”
Chinese visitors to Chicago have increased more than 250 percent since 2004 to 120,000 people last year. Qui said his 5,000 or so annual shoppers spend between $300 and $600 per person each day.
photo credit: fashion outlets of chicago