Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Annual Dragon Boat Festival brings no joy to gift retailers

SINKING SALES In the past three years, some retailers have watched their revenue plunge by as much as 90 percent during the holiday period

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sales of Dragon Boat Festival gift packs, which dwindled over the last three years after many Taiwanese companies moved to China, is expected to get worse this year because of SARS, retail industry professionals said yesterday.

"Our Dragon Boat Festival sales this year are expected to drop 15 percent from last year to NT$20 million," said Andy Wu (吳良輝), CEO of Corning Wine House (康齡), a wine retailer with 20 stores nationwide.

"That figure will represent a huge drop, 90 percent, from our peak sales in 2000," after increasing number of Taiwanese factories moving to China, Wu said.

Given such poor sales, the Festival is largely ignored by retailers, Wu said.

Taiwanese traditionally visit family and friends during the Dragon Boat Festival with gift packages of glutinous rice dumplings or liquor.

The festival falls on the fifth month of the fifth day of the lunar calendar, or June 4 this year on the solar calendar.

The SARS epidemic couldn't have come at a worse time for businesses catering the holiday, another industry veteran said.

"In order to avoid contracting SARS, people have reduced the number of face-to-face contacts they might have to make, which in turn undermined the demand for gifts," said Crystin Chiang (江敏惠), general manager of Drink, Wine & Spirits Ltd (橡木桶), a local alcohol distributor with 30 outlets.

In an effort to boost sales, Chiang's company decides to launch a 15-percent-off sale on all items between May 30 and June 8.

Any purchase of a bottle of whisky or wine priced above NT$300, will include a 660cc Beck's beer for free, Chiang said.

Traditional food company Hsin Tungyang Co (新東陽食品), which began to produce and market Chinese-style desserts in 1967, also said the Dragon Boat Festival is not as hot as it used to be.

"We are seeing an annual 10 percent drop in festival-gift sales over last three years," said Lin Hsuan-chen (林軒臣), marketing manager at Hsin Tungyang.

The food maker expects this year's sale to fall below NT$1 billion, compared with more than NT$1.5 billion in 2000 sales, Lin said.

Despite the fear of SARS, some retailers are still optimistic that consumers will take glutinous rice dumplings home to celebrate.

"We provide 20 selections of glutinous rice dumplings including mushroom, pork, seafood or red-bean paste stuffing," said Fiona Wang (王彤芳), public relations manager at RT-Mart (大潤發).

She said the coming weekend is expected to a shopping frenzy for sticky rice dumplings.

Prices vary from NT$9.9 to NT$70 per dumpling at RT-Mart branches.

Rival Far Eastern Geant Co (愛買吉安) also has 28 different sticky rice dumplings, priced from NT$8.9 to NT$50.

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