Unifree DF eclipses 100,000 Chinese shoppers in Golden Week retail frenzy

By Luke Barras-hill |

Golden-Week-Unifree-19Turkish travel retailer Unifree Duty Free received more than 110,000 Chinese shoppers in seven days during a special event (27 September – 10 October) to mark the famed Golden Week national holiday.

Throughout the period, all passengers were encouraged to browse and purchase, with Chinese shoppers alone hitting around 1,060 per day compared to 600 on a typical day.

The share of Chinese passenger spending to total revenues jumped from 8% to 11% during Golden Week.


Ali Şenher, CEO, Unifree Duty Free.


Ali Şenher, CEO, Unifree Duty Free noted: “We have reached the highest sales figures during the week since the opening of Istanbul Airport. [The] total number of Chinese passengers who shopped during the week was over 5,400, pushing weekly sales up by 74%.

“Thanks to the momentum created by the event that has attracted many other nationalities other than Chinese and Far Eastern [customers], total customer numbers shopping at Unifree Duty Free stores during the Golden Week exceeded 110,000.”

To cope with demand for an occasion centred around China National Day (1 October), Unifree Duty Free delivered training to its staff on Chinese culture and basic language courses provided by the Turkish Chinese Cultural Association.

“Thanks to the events like the Golden Week, we find the opportunity to share with our guests our vast and unabridged products range, special products designed solely for Istanbul Airport and customised shopping experiences that include special product selections,” he said. “Events and activities that will focus on different cultures will keep coming.”

As reported, Unifree Duty Free – in which Gebr. Heinemann owns a 60.8% share – now boasts more than 96 shops and 73 brands since it began trading officially in April when the airport finally opened after consecutive delays.


Paris’ Saint Laurent sells exclusive women’s handbags, jewellery, belts, sunglasses and textile accessories among other items.


Most recently, the travel retailer added Saint Laurent to the luxury spread at the sprawling Bosphorus Zone, which occupies five distinct villages and is nestled in the heart of the 53,000sq m commercial area.

Şenher says the volume of Chinese visitors from the People’s Republic of China to Turkey has leaped from around 150,000 in 2008 to more than 400,000 last year.

“Fuelled mainly by the declaration of ‘Turkey Tourism Year’ in 2018, many tour operators in China have started adding Turkish destinations in their tour packages,” he continued.

“We predict that around 600,000 Chinese tourists will visit Turkey in 2019 and most will be arriving via Istanbul. That makes Golden Week even more significant for us.”

Responding to seasonal demographics remains an important element in driving spending, indicates Şenher.

Quoting data, he says that of the more than 15 million Chinese tourists to Europe last year, Turkey took an approximate 2.7% share (400,000).

Overall, female shopper numbers were higher than male – and they spent more, especially those aged 28-29.

Basket sizes tend to lift after 30 years of age, reaching a peak at around 40-42 years of age at €150/$165 per basket.

The average age of Chinese travellers to Istanbul on tour packages in the summer is over 40, with higher income business travellers offsetting a drop in tourist numbers in the winter.


NOW LIVE: January ezine + landmark Annual Survey

The TRBusiness January 2024 ezine, containing the flagship Global Industry Survey, is now...


Harding+ announces departure of Chief Brand and Culture Officer Sue Gosling

Harding+ Chief Brand and Culture Officer Sue Gosling has stood down from her...


Global Travel Retail Awards 2024: Entries now open!

TRBusiness is delighted to announce that entries to the consumer-voted Global Travel Retail...

image description

In the Magazine

TRBusiness Magazine is free to access. Read the latest issue now.

E-mail this link to a friend