Mon, Feb 09, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Vouchers boost sales at hypermarkets

HAPPY HOLIDAYS Carrefour Taiwan said its sales over the Lunar New Year jumped 20 percent from last year, with consumer vouchers contributing half of the increase

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Hypermarkets and department stores saw double-digit growth in sales over the Lunar New Year holiday as a result of consumer voucher promotions, but it remains to be seen whether the vouchers will raise GDP by at least 0.66 percentage points as hoped, analysts said.

Retailers said sales volume had increased 20 percent over the holiday.

Carrefour Taiwan (家樂福), the nation’s largest hypermarket chain, said its holiday sales jumped 20 percent from last year, with shopping vouchers contributing half of the increase.

RT-Mart (大潤發), the second-largest hypermarket chain, reported a sales growth of between 20 percent and 30 percent during the same period, while Far Eastern Geant Co (愛買), the No. 3 chain, saw retail transactions expand nearly 30 percent.

Consumer vouchers constituted 40 percent and 50 percent of transactions for RT-Mart and Far Eastern Geant respectively, the companies said.

The government has printed NT$85.7 billion (US$2.54 billion) in vouchers — NT$3,600 for each citizen and foreign spouse — in the hope of boosting domestic demand amid the economic downturn.

Qualified recipients collected NT$76.2 billion in vouchers on Jan. 18 and another NT$2.01 billion on Saturday, government statistics showed.

As of Thursday, NT$24.28 billion in vouchers had been cashed, accounting for 31.8 percent of the amount distributed, the Bank of Taiwan (台灣銀行) said. The bank expected the ratio to hit 35 percent this week.

The vouchers also boosted department store chains over the holiday.

Pacific Sogo Department Stores Co (太平洋崇光百貨), Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store (新光三越百貨) and Far Eastern Department Store (遠東百貨) all reported sales increases of 10 percent.

Pacific Sogo and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi attributed a quarter of the increase to deals for customers who paid with vouchers, while Far Eastern said the promotions accounted for 32 percent of sales.

Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂), chief economist at Citigroup Inc Taiwan, said the vouchers could raise GDP growth by 1 percentage point in the first quarter based on the preliminary estimate of his company.

“The voucher plan appears to have been effective in boosting consumer activity, as seen over the holiday,” Cheng said by telephone. “The private sector has been supportive and offered various discounts limited to transactions with the vouchers.”

But Cheng said it was too early to judge the full effect of the vouchers.

Tony Phoo (符銘財), a Taipei-based economist at Standard Chartered Bank, said it remained to be seen whether the public had increased their spending because of the vouchers or used them to pay their usual expenses.

“In the latter scenario, the vouchers will do little to spur economic growth,” Phoo said by telephone.

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