Tuesday, August 07, 2012

China tourist purpose in Paris: buy, buy, buy

La_Fayette 018
La_Fayette 018 (Photo credit: Fantake)
Even when you are familiar with all the figures on luxury sales to Chinese tourists, a visit to La Fayette Galleries in Paris is still revealing. 
On many places in the city, you could meet those herds of Chinese tourists, although often Japanese seemed to outnumber them, perhaps with the exception of the Arc de Triomf. But since most Chinese tourists travel in tour groups, my impression could be based on a wrong observatoin. A few buses half an hour later could make all the difference. France is anyway the fourth most popular tourist destination for Chinese tourists, and for them La Fayette is a must.
Chinese tourists certainly outnumber any other nationality in La Fayette. (Here are a few pictures) Here you could see the real purpose of their stay in Paris: buy, buy, buy. We visited La Fayette on a slow day, in the surrounding streets I only counted a dozen buses (quite a number from the Netherlands). But La Fayette absorbed them with ease.
The store was equipped with all tools to mange huge crowds, but all the guards, barriers to close down shops and other queuing measures were not needed during our visit.
Stairs were dotted with exhausted buyers handling larger numbers of shopping bags. The first question asked when customers entered the door: where are the bargains? The ground floor had cleverly no bargains, but higher up, they were abundant. 
Apart from the huge dome ("Is this a church", asked one visitor, "Yes, a kind off", I told her), only the size of the story is really different from what I have seen elsewhere. All the luxury brands were there, and look like they would look in Shanghai, Hong Kong or any other place. But the momentum created a great buying atmosphere.
One of the main reasons is the price difference: In mainland China imported luxury products are heavily taxed. But even when China's taxes would be cancelled (and that would be a good idea), places like La Fayette still seem to attract Chinese customers, more than museums. 
Fortunately, for those who a tired of shopping and still have to wait for a bus to pick them up, around la Fayette there were pretty decent Chinese restaurants.
When you have been craving for decent Chinese food for months, those restaurants are pretty ok. but to manage the crowds, those restaurants present the food in fast-food style, with counters where dimsum is actually heated up in a microwave! You know the quality can be a lot better, but it did not stop us, nor other customers.
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