Big Apple shopping Sprees: With the dollar down, international tourists hit city shopping districts

Authors note: This is one in a series of blog posts related to business reporting class assignments.  While interesting (I hope!) they will likely not have much to do with municipal finance.

Source: NYC & Company (http://www.nycgo.com)

Drawn by the allure of America’s largest city and seeking shopping deals, international tourists continue to flood New York City shopping districts, and in
turn, are helping the city’s bottom line.

Last year 48.8 million visitors visited the Big Apple — up from 45.6 million in 2009, according to statistics compiled by NYC & Company, a nonprofit that serves as the city’s official marketing organization.

The increase in the number of domestic tourists has slowed in recent years,
according to the statistics. But international visitors are visiting in even greater
numbers, with nearly 20 percent of last years’ recorded tourists coming from
outside the United States.

Combined, domestic and international tourists spent $28.2 billion within city limits last year, according to NYC & Company, which translated into $7.5 billion in tax revenue.

“We just love New York,” 30-year-old nurse Kimberley Livingstone, who came with her older sister Gillian Blake from Sydney, Australia for a weeklong shopping trip, said last week.

They had only arrived in Manhattan within the past 24 hours, but the sisters were already pushing a full cart of clothing and shopping bags while browsing the aisles at Century 21 near the World Trade Center site Tuesday afternoon.

Hundreds of shoppers, many speaking in accents and a variety of languages, filled the discount department store — where a $240 Kenneth Cole black wool jacket goes for $119.97 and a $220 pair of designer jeans goes for $60.

Buoyed by a weak U.S. dollar and lower price tags for American brands, the sisters were some of many international tourists who said shopping in the Big Apple is hard to pass up.

“We were here last year,” Livingstone said. “We wanted a sister holiday, and last
year we realized how cheap everything is in New York.”

With the Australian dollar near record highs and now on par with the U.S. dollar, the sisters said that they could shop more during this year’s trip.

And as the Euro and British Pound remain stronger than the dollar, at exchange
rates of roughly $1.40 and $1.60 respectively, despite significant drops, European tourists said they could shop cheaper in America than at home.

While walking in New York’s famous Soho shopping district on Friday, Holland
resident Coby Hagabeek and her 19-year-old son Steven Wolters also credited the favorable exchange rate with influencing vacation shopping sprees.

With three days left in their 10-day trip, Wolters donned Calvin Klein sneakers and Bose headphones, both purchased for him during their trip.

“It’s very cheap for us now, especially with American brands,” Hagabeek said, citing that the headphones would have cost more than $150 more in Holland. “Otherwise it’s too expensive.”

Also in Soho Friday afternoon, Deborah Sellars, a social worker from Sheffield,
England, carried shopping bags from popular retailer Hollister Co., filled with gifts for her teenage son back home.

“I would have spent a lot more in England,” Sellars said. “And there’s so much more choice. My son would have gone wild in there.”

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