California outlet malls lure Chinese bargain hunters

Aug. 25, 2013 at 2:47 PM

SACRAMENTO, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Chinese tourists have become big spenders at California outlet malls, retailers say.

For the Chinese, places like Vacaville Premium Outlets, in between San Francisco and Sacramento, offer designer handbags and other luxury items at half what they would cost in China, The Sacramento Bee reported. California, a 12-hour flight from Beijing, is a comparatively easy reach for the newly affluent and growing Chinese middle class.

"Chinese visitors are the darlings of the industry," Maura Eggan, vice president of marketing for Premium Outlets, told the Bee.

The mall is one of 12 in California owned by Simon Property Group of Indianapolis. Eggan said Vacaville is a convenient stopover for tour buses headed for Napa Valley's wineries or Lake Tahoe.

In California, many stores are now hiring clerks who speak Mandarin and accept credit cards issued in China. Simon Property decorates its malls with red for the Chinese New Year and brings in lion dancers.

The state says 700,000 Chinese visited California in 2012, a number that is expected to rise to more than one million by 2015. With analysts saying the average visitor spent $3,000, that adds up to big money.

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