작년 극심한 경기침체에도 의류, 핸드백, 화장품 등 사치품 수입이 86억달러(한화 약 9조3천억원)를 돌파하며 사상 최대를 기록했다.
관세청 관계자는 “사치품 수입증가율이 2.93%로 전년도(34.25%)에 크게 못 미치지만 작년 국내총생산(GDP) 증가율이 2%에 그칠 정도로 국내외 경제사정이 좋지 않았던 점을 감안하면 소비자의 외국 브랜드 선호는 줄지 않았다고 볼 수 있다”라고 말했다.
품목별로 보면 의류가 60억3천200만달러어치 들어와 사치품 수입비중의 70%를 차지했다. 의류 수입이 60억달러대를 넘어선 것은 이번이 처음이다.
관세청은 올해도 이들 사치품에 대한 국내 수요가 줄지 않을 것으로 보고 명품의류, 핸드백 등 고가 사치성 소비재 수입 과정에서 관세탈루 의혹이 있는 다국적 기업에 대한 관세조사(법인심사)를 대폭 강화한다.
한편 국내 주요 백화점은 새 시즌에 일제히 해외 유명 고급시계 부문을 강화한다.
지난해 백화점들의 해외 고급시계 매출신장률은 불황속에서도 롯데 20.6%, 현대 26.3%, 신세계 18%, 갤러리아 38%를 각각 기록했다. 대표 브랜드로 롤렉스, IWC, 브레게 등이 있으며 가격대는 수백만원에서 수천만 원대를 호가한다.
가치소비 추세가 확산하면서 전문직 남성들의 고급시계 구매가 늘었고 급증하는 중국관광객이 고급시계 소비층으로 부상한 것도 백화점들이 시계 매장을 강화하는 이유다.
업계의 한 관계자는 “세금 환급을 받으면 중국보다 약 30% 더 싸게 살 수 있어 고급시계를 구매하는 중국인이 많다”며 “면세점에 없는 신상품과 최고가 제품을 주로 찾는다”고 전했다.
(코리아헤럴드 김소현 기자)
<관련 영문 기사>Luxury imports hit record high
Imports of luxury items such as premium brand clothes, handbags and cosmetics hit a record high $8.6 billion (9.3 trillion won) last year despite the reeling economy.
Imports of the five main nonessentials -- luxury brand clothes, watches, golf clubs, handbags and cosmetics -- gained 2.93 percent compared to 2011, the Korea Customs Office said on Sunday.
“The growth rate (of imports of the five nonessential goods) fell far short of the 34.25 percent increase in 2011, but considering that the Korean GDP grew only 2 percent last year, consumers’ preference for foreign labels did not ebb,” KCS official said.
Over $6 billion or 70 percent of last year’s imports of high-end goods was clothing.
Handbags rose by $50 million to $952 million, while cosmetics gained $20 million to $883 million.
Imports of golf clubs, on the other hand, dropped by $25 million to $245 million.
Presuming the demand for luxury items will not dip this year, the KCS said it will intensify customs duties inquiries on multinational companies that are suspected of evading tariffs as they import expensive consumer goods.
The KCS plans to look into the appropriateness of their reported tariffs, foreign currency trading, whether they received excessive tax returns or unfair tax cuts, or violated import-export rules.
Meanwhile, local department stores are set to introduce more premium watch brands as sales jumped last year thanks to growing demand from professional men and Chinese tourists.
Sales of imported luxury watches such as Rolex, IWC and Breguet surged 20.6 percent at Lotte, 26.3 percent at Hyundai, 18 percent at Shinsegae and 38 percent at Galleria last year.
These watches are priced from millions of won to tens of millions of won per piece.
“Consumers with great interest and knowledge in foreign premium watch brands increased,” said a clerk at a luxury watch shop.
“People used to purchase watches for wedding gifts at around 5 million won on average until a few years back, but now it has gone up to between 10 million and 15 million won.”
In addition to professional men’s greater appetite for luxury, Chinese tourists have emerged as the main customer of high-end watches.
Chinese purchases of high-end watches climbed 15 percent at Lotte Department Store last year. At Galleria, Chinese accounted for 10 percent, up from 4 percent in 2011, of jewelry and expensive watch sales.
“Because the Chinese can buy premium watches about 30 percent cheaper than in China by getting tax refunds, many look for new arrivals and the most expensive products which they can’t find in duty-free shops,” said another industry official.
Lotte Avenuel’s 1,650-square-meter watch arcade on the second floor, the country’s largest which opened last year, is scheduled for a renewal. Six new brands including Vacheron Constantin, Blancpain and Omega will be added.
The COEX branch of Hyundai Department Store also plans to expand the space for high-end watch shops by about four times to 858 square meters. Ten new brands including Audemars Piguet, Breitling, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget and Blancpain will be added to its current lineup of six.
The main Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong will open independent boutiques for Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC and Panerai next month.
Shinsegae Department Store is set to open Burberry Britain, Rado and Longines shops in its Gyeonggi branch late this month.
Galleria already increased the number of high-end watch brands to 21 last year. It plans to have an exclusive concierge for jewelry and watches to offer one-on-one consultation service for customers within the first half of this year.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com