Well-known Chinese news site Sina recently reported that South Korean duty-free stores experienced a major loss of customers last year due to the conflict with China on the issue of deploying the U.S. THAAD missile defense system. For example, in the month of November, Chinese visitors to South Korea declined by 42.1 percent. Chinese visitors were the primary buyers at duty-free stores; the headcount reduction caused major concerns earlier last year. However, last November’s nearly US$1 billion in duty-free sales set a historic high for November. This became a typical situation in almost all months last year and duty-free stores achieved their best sales records when having the lowest number of Chinese visitors. Analysts found that the high sales volume were supported by the Chinese proxy shopping channels, which allowed Korea-based agents to make purchases for their Chinese buyers when paid a small fee. The duty-free stores saw a significant increase in sales through these channels.
Source: Sina, January 13, 2018