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Chinese tourists go back to buying “Made in Italy” luxury goods

by Marta Casadei

A cup of hot tea as a sign of welcome; tips on gifts for friends and colleagues, excluding men's green hats or umbrellas, considered to have a negative meaning.

It only takes a few small steps to establish a good relationship with Chinese tourists who arrive in Italy with the specific aim of going on a shopping spree of luxury goods.

Chinese customers account for 30% of tax-free sales in Italy each year and, after a decline 2016, their number recovered in 2017.

According to tax free shopping firm Global Blue, between January and March 2017 purchases by Chinese tourists increased 12% from the same period last year.

The average value of each purchase stood at €964, up 4% from the first quarter of 2016. The trend is positive especially in Milan, where visitors from the People's Republic of China have spent 13% more than in the January-March period last year, with the “Quadrilatero,”
the heart of Milan's fashion district, up 10%.

“In 2016, we witnessed a currency-related perfect storm, which was also due to the biometric visas that slowed down arrivals and to terrorist attacks that made Europe less safe, at least in the perception of Chinese travelers,” said Antonella Bertossi, marketing manager at Global Blue Italia.

“Today, we are witnessing a recovery and, at the same time, an evolution in the types of Chinese tourists coming to our country,” said Bertossi.

Faced with a decline in travel bookings, tour operators have expanded their target to residents of secondary and tertiary cities, quite different from Beijing and Shanghai.

“On average, those who live in larger and cosmopolitan cities are more refined in taste, since they are wealthier and more 'exposed' to Western fashion, while those arriving from 'second or third tier' cities do not long for extreme luxury, but prefer premium brands,” said Bertossi.

This is good news for upper- and middle-market Made in Italy brands, which could see an increase in purchases by Chinese shoppers.

Chinese tourists are potentially lavish buyers, provided sales personnel know how to treat them with awareness and foresight.

For this purpose, Global Blue, in collaboration with the Montenapoleone District, organized in Milan the 2017 edition of Sales Cultural Training China, targeted at sales staff and store managers.

First of all, salespeople need to understand who they are dealing with: groups of tourists on their first trip to Europe, and therefore less accustomed to Western customs, traditions and languages, or young globetrotters who are fluent in English and have already looked up on the internet the products they wish to buy.

Always keep in mind Chinese traditions and related customs: never show your emotions in front of Chinese customers or blatantly push them to buy. Chinese tourists appreciate politeness and efficiency, combined with a few suggestions, if appropriate.