We have just celebrated Christmas, but I’m increasingly looking forward to the Chinese New Year as this will be my first time spending the Chinese New Year in China in 12 years!  

Reading the reports on how much US consumers spent this year during the holiday month made me reflect on what Chinese consumers do during their single most important holiday of the year — and how they spend their money. While the Chinese New Year is traditionally about celebrating the New Year with friends and family, in recent years an increasing number of people have chosen the unconventional route and used this time to visit other countries. According to Ctrip.com (quoted by Sina Finance), more than 50% of the packages to the US, Middle East and Africa, and Australia were booked two months before the Chinese New Year. And wherever Chinese travelers go, they shop: If you’ve ever seen a Chinese travel group’s itinerary, you will know that a couple of stops at a shopping mall or an outlet are usually incorporated into the plan.

My colleague Zia Daniell Wigder writes regularly about how Chinese consumers buy luxury goods online. In her recent report Selling Luxury Goods To Online Shoppers In China, she points out that the luxury goods market in China is booming. But luxury goods are still less expensive in the home countries of the brands, and Chinese travelers love to take advantage of that. Plus, a Hermes bag from Paris sounds more authentic anyway.

According to The Guardian, China's travelers spent $54 billion overseas in 2010 and $72 billion in 2011; according to the World Luxury Association, Chinese people who traveled overseas during the Chinese New Year in 2012 spent $7.2 billion on luxury goods. So, retailers in popular destinations for Chinese travelers should make sure they extend the holiday season through the Chinese New Year and give their Chinese visitors a warm welcome.

Here are some of the things that appeal to Chinese travelers:

  • Decorate your stores with a Chinese New Year’s theme. You don’t need to overdo it, but adding some red here and there helps Chinese travelers “feel at home” and keeps their holiday spirit going.
  • Hire Chinese-speaking sales clerks. Even if it’s temporary, have one or two people who can serve your Chinese visitors in their native language to demonstrate genuine hospitality.
  • If you don’t already accept Union Pay, hook it up. While most Chinese international travelers will have their international credit cards or cash to hand, stores that accept Union Pay certainly help with the purchasing decision, especially when cash or a credit card limit is running low.
  • Enable complimentary Wi-Fi in stores. When Chinese travelers make a big trip overseas, they are eager to share what they see, eat, and buy with their friends and family at home through popular social media channels like Weibo and WeChat. Providing complimentary Wi-Fi will increase the chances of your products being shared via China’s social media.
  • Make it easy for them to buy souvenirs. It’s very common for Chinese people to take home souvenirs for friends and relatives after a trip overseas; they usually don’t like to go home empty-handed. Putting out products that are easy to transport and that have nice packaging at an affordable price will help make their trips (and purchases) less stressful.

Do you work in retail in a market affected by Chinese New Year travelers? What have you done (or seen being done) to attract their custom? Share your stories with us in the comments below.