Wed, May 14, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Sale signs overpower SARS fears

DISCOUNT ATTRACTION Pacific Sogo Department Store clerks were rushed off their feet yesterday as thousands of shoppers returned after a three-day closure

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Eager to take advantage of discounted prices, throngs of customers line up to enter Sogo's Chunghsiao East Road store in Taipei as it reopens its doors yesterday. The store was closed for three days to allow for disinfection after a cashier and several customers reportedly came down with symptoms of SARS last week.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei's sales-loving consumers left SARS fears at home yesterday and showed up en masse at Pacific Sogo Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) Chunghsiao E Road for its re-opening sale.

The store opened its doors yesterday for the first time since last Friday after it was closed so the entire 12-story facility could be disinfected after last week's SARS scare. Promotions of up to 50 percent off on selected items succeeded in luring back customers.

"The super cheap discounts are so attractive that I couldn't resist," said Helen Chang (張心倫), 21, a sophomore at Tamkang University.

"Of course I still feel uneasy about the disease, so I still wear my mask all the time," she added.

Chang arrived at Sogo at 10am, one hour before the department store opened, to be first in line.

The store closed last week of its own accord after one cashier and several customers allegedly came down with SARS symptoms.

To lure customers back, the retailer announced a three-day sale starting yesterday and running through tomorrow. The store marked down selected items on cosmetics, accessories and consumer electronics by as much as 50 percent. Everything in the store's supermarket yesterday was also discounted by 20 percent.

Consumer reaction to the sale surprised even Sogo staff.

"In less than 30 minutes, we sold out all [200] limited items," a salesperson at the Shu Uemura counter.

The Japanese cosmetic maker offered makeup remover, originally priced at NT$2,100 per bottle, for NT$1,000 yesterday.

According to Sogo, the department store attracted an estimated 80,000 shoppers yesterday, a slight increase over its average of 60,000 shoppers a day on weekdays.

"We are glad that consumers haven't forgotten us," said Lee Kuang-rong (李光榮), Sogo's spokesman. "After all we've done so much, such as store-wide disinfection."

But for consumers, bargains, rather than disinfection, were the key.

"I am here for the discounts ? I plan to leave as soon as I make my purchase," said Huang Kuang-huei (黃光輝), a 45-year old father of two who was waiting in line to buy a NT$1,990 air purifier.

The magnetism of the sale was overpowering for some.

"The discounts are even deeper than their annual sale, so I couldn't persuade myself not to come," said Hsiao Li-ting (蕭麗婷), 30, a regular Sogo customer who admitted to weekly store visits.

However, Sogo may still not be out of the woods yet.

The Taipei City Government's Bureau of Health yesterday said there was another suspected SARS case linked to the store's Tunhwa South Road branch.

A man, surnamed Lee, reportedly came down with fever and lung problems on May 10. He had worked part-time at the Tunhwa branch's supermarket between April 28 and May 1.

Spokesman Lee Kuang-rong said based on the date, the part-time worker's suspected infection "has nothing to do with Sogo."

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