Shopping festival failing to boost sales, firms say

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 - Page 13

Local firms yesterday said a nationwide shopping festival had not helped boost their sales, criticizing the government for not promoting the event because of a rushed schedule.

As the shopping festival is about to end in three weeks, the Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday said it would hold a lottery with prizes that include gift vouchers, jewelry and skin care products to attract shoppers.

In an attempt to stimulate consumption and promote tourism and Taiwan-made products, the ministry announced that its first nationwide shopping festival would run from Oct. 13 to Dec. 20, with more than 500 companies taking part.

“Frankly speaking, most firms participating in the program earned very little,” a Greater Taichung-based bakery said at a press conference held by the ministry.

“Though it helps promote brand awareness, our revenue did not grow during the festival. Most people visiting our booths did not even know a nationwide shopping festival is under way,” said the owner of the bakery, surnamed Guo.

The latest government data, released by the ministry on Friday last week, showed the nation’s domestic commercial sales, which include the food and beverage, retail and wholesale sectors, totaled NT$11.82 trillion in the first 10 months of the year, down 0.8 percent from a year earlier. The ministry also has a bearish outlook for domestic commercial sales next year amid a weak economy.

“We hope the event can attract more foreign visitors from Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia,” Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho (卓士昭) said at the press conference. “We also hope the incentives can attract the public’s attention, particularly the rich. If high-income households can lower their individual savings rate to 24 percent from about 35 percent, and they spend more on products promoted at the festival, there would be a NT$400 billion increase in sales.”

However, local firms hold an opposing view.

“The problem is not about providing more discounts or incentives,” said a Kenting-based guest house owner, surnamed Liu. “We don’t see a grand plan here.”

An owner of a Greater Taichung-based gingerbread cake bakery, surnamed Chang, expressed his frustration with the government’s poor preparations for the shopping festival.

“We don’t even see our brand printed in brochures that introduce the festival. There is a serious issue on the advertising and it’s disappointing,” he said.

Chen Wei-ta (陳威達), a section chief at the ministry’s commerce department, attributed the problems to the agency’s financial difficulties.

“After realizing that it is costly to update and reprint brochures as more firms joined the festival, we decided to digitize all the coupons and upload them to our official Web site for visitors to access,” Chen said by telephone.

The ministry said more than 140,000 people have browsed the shopping festival Web site and about 60,000 have downloaded coupons.

Chen also said the Tourism Bureau had advertised the program in newspapers and on TV in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia to attract foreign visitors in the past weeks, but the government would work to solve the problems raised by participating companies if it decides to hold another shopping festival next year.