Monday, December 3, 2012

Asian tourists flock to Disneyland with carefully plotted excursions to the retail mecca

Skipping tariffs and taxes, foreign shoppers flush with cash fill their Southern California trips with shopping sprees at places like South Coast Plaza, and increasingly, employees at the luxury shopping center are taking extraordinary steps to host them, trained to fulfill the tiniest of needs.

                     Shelley Chen, center, of Guangzhou, China, who just graduated from law school, said she was treating herself at South Coast Plaza before going home to start work. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / December 1, 2012)

South Coast Plaza has become a destination for overseas Asians, who bundle trips to Disneyland with carefully plotted excursions to the retail mecca, stocking up on snug blue jeans, watches, luggage, purses and flashy sunglasses selling for $500 a pair.

"We could have seen it in American Vogue and we're here to get it," said Izuka, looking magazine model-sleek as he and his buddies walk past an Italian cafe and ride an escalator toward the center's Jewel Court, a cluster of high-end jewelry boutiques where foreigners pay cash for $100,000 necklaces or other sparkling baubles.

"I like to buy whatever I can because the prices are so low," says Lucas Xu, comparing the costs to those in China, his homeland.

Robert Sun, founder of the American Chinese CEO Society, says he has taken guests from China's Shandong province to South Coast for dinner and to buy presents.

"They fall in love because of the large number of brand names. No other place can compare," he recalls. Foreign visitors are familiar with Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, Sun added, "but now they see South Coast as the best shopping. When somebody has a good experience buying, like, a bag, they go and tell their friends."

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