Chinese tourists shop for cosmetics at Lotte Duty Free World Tower Store in Jamsil, southeastern Seoul, Thursday. / Yonhap
By Park Jae-hyuk
Lotte Group has marked the hopeful beginning of duty free war in southeastern Seoul on Thursday, attracting about 10,000 visitors to the reopened Lotte World Tower store in Jamsil, which had been closed for 193 days since last June.
On the day of its opening, hundreds of visitors lined up in front of elevators heading toward the duty free store on the eighth and ninth floors of the building, even before the opening at 9:30 a.m. As most of them were from China, the duty free store employees struggled to greet them in Chinese.
Korean cosmetics stores were the most jam-packed places with those tourists, who have a high preference for Sulwhasoo and Laneige produced by AmorePacific, and The History of Whoo produced by LG Household & Healthcare.
According to Lotte Duty Free, about 5,000 Chinese tourists came to the store on visits scheduled by travel agencies. The company said more than a half of the total sales revenue was from cosmetics brands.
"The most popular luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and Bulgari, have yet to reopen their stores," a Lotte Duty Free spokesman said. "However, we posted almost the same amount of sales as before we closed the World Tower store."
Lotte Group had failed to get its duty-free license renewed in November 2015, but received one again last December, along with two other retail giants ㅡ Shinsegae and Hyundai Department Store ㅡ which are also seeking to open new duty free stores in southeastern Seoul.
However, Lotte occupied the dominant position in the market with its knowhow of running the store in Jamsil before. The outlet's 1,300 employees, who had temporarily left the store more than half a year, vowed to try their best to welcome the visitors.
"Some of the employees were even about to cry," the spokesman said, "because they were so happy to regain their jobs."
Lotte Group aims to post 1.2 trillion won ($1 billion) in sales this year, expanding the store's size and offering 700 brands. The group said shoppers will be able to enjoy the amusement park, aquariums and observatory in the tower.
Meanwhile, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin reportedly visited the World Tower Store the day before the opening, after participating in a fire drill that took place in the nation's tallest skyscraper.