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27/12/2010 - Asia splurges on Christmas whilst the West counts the pennies  27/12/2010 - Asia splurges on Christmas whilst the West counts the pennies

27/12/2010 - Asia splurges on Christmas whilst the West counts the pennies

As European and US economies continue to suffer from the economic downturn; consumers in the West have been cautious and the retail market slower than usual this Christmas.

However, global retail brands have seen strong sales in Asia in the run up to the festive season.

Singapore’s popular Orchard Road shopping area was busy with foreign tourists during the past two months. Many of these came from Southeast Asia where currencies have risen in value against the US dollar this year.

One such tourist, Don Triangga a twenty six year old Indonesian, spent over one thousand Singapore dollars (US $1,150) on a Louis Vuitton belt and Burberry shirt.

In fact, economists in Singapore have forecast a fifteen percent increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for this year which, if achieved, will make Singapore Asia’s fastest growing economy in 2010.

Lee Hae-Kyung, a thirty three year old hospital administrator, said her budget for Christmas gifts this year was forty-four US dollars for each friend - five times more than her budget last year.

"It's not like I'm making more money than before, but I just feel like spending more since people around me and the whole atmosphere seem to be far more optimistic," she said.

Over in Hong Kong, the retail industry is also booming. In fact, according to government figures, retail sales rose by 18.3 percent to the end of October compared with the same period last year.

"The level of income growth remains very strong in China so [Chinese tourists] are likely to keep spending more," commented Aaron Fischer, an analyst at Hong Kong based brokerage and investment group, CLSA.

Thailand has also seen retail sales improve, largely due to an improved political situation attracting more tourists along with an easing of concerns over the strong Baht.

The picture in Australia, however, is completely different.

The strength of the Australian dollar is affecting local businesses and consumers are increasingly shopping online for offshore bargains.

Recent interest rate rises have also weakened consumer confidence and many Australians have cut back their spending this year.

"Consumers are already showing signs they are watching their pennies this festive season with almost thirty three percent saying they are planning on spending less this year than last Christmas," said Australia Retailers' Association director Russell Zimmerman.







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