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Room for growth in Riga's retail scene

By Editor . 27.11.2008

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In an effort to find out more about the shopping habits and evolution of Riga’s shopping scene, RigaNOW! met with three specialists in the field – the Country Manager of Global Refund Latvia, Vineta Kalmane; the Director of Ermenegildo Zegna boutique in Riga, Dr. Massimo Santachiara; and Kimmo Huttunen, Director of the Stockmann department store in Riga.

In response to the increasing numbers of tourists spending their time and money in the Latvian capital, the number of shops has recently risen. Despite the economic crisis hitting the USA and Europe, people's shopping habits have not radically altered. Citing statistics gathered by Tax Free Shopping, Kalmane says that Riga as a shopping destination is still very popular for tourists from the CIS countries. Also, the number of purchases they make while in Riga is growing steadily, reaching over 65 % a year. Looking at how Latvians are cutting their spending on fashion, foreigners are the sole large market to target.  Dr.Santachiara from Ermenegildo Zegna says that most of Zegna's foreign clients come from Eastern Europe, especially during the summer. Huttunen from Stockmann says he now hears customers speaking different languages, especially English, Swedish and Finnish.

 Asked what makes Riga uniquely attractive as a shopping destination, Kalmane says that prices for many goods are still lower than in other European countries, especially when prices for brand-name clothes, footwear and accessories in Riga are compared to those in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Also, Riga offers an excellent selection of upscale brands for Scandinavian clients. Another reason why business tourists from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine buy more expensive and luxury goods while in Riga is a partial VAT rebate, which makes things all that more attractive for them.

According to numbers gathered by Tax Free Shopping, the average amount spent in one shop by foreign customers is €466. Locals spend that amount far more rarely. Unfortunately, local storekeepers don’t seem to value their foreign clientele potential, yet. Stockmann's Huttunen confirmed that they don’t have a special marketing strategy to attract foreign customers – they mostly target the local market. Massimo Santachiara said Ermenegildo Zegna is a world-famous Italian men’s brand, and foreign businessmen know they will find quality and good service in any of its sque around the world. Kalmane, however, said storekeepers often don’t realize how important their foreign clientele actually is, and forget to locate their store. Shop owners also forget that business travelers are extremely busy and expect to have information about shopping venues at their quick disposal. 

In terms of numbers, the future looks brighter. Riga International Airport aims to be able to turnover 20 million passengers annually after its expansion. The city’s close proximity to the airport is another plus, as is the constantly growing number of direct flights being added to the already plentiful connections via Riga. There is no doubt this will bring more tourists and clients to Riga’s fashion scene. Add to this the world-wide trend of shopping while travelling on business, and Riga will not be an exception. Statistics show that, on average, Riga is visited by over 20, 000 affluent businesspeople monthly – indeed, a large customer group to work with.




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