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Still buying sparkly stuff

By I.Timuka. 01.09.2009

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  Do hard times mean that no one is buying shiny jewelry and stunning timepieces anymore?


Even in the current turgid economic climate, it turns out that rich people are still pretty rich. And they're still spending lots of money on — what else? — travel and bling. In fact, they see it as an investment since prices of precious stones and metals are going up, while traveling is one of the nicest ways to take a break from the uneasy world of business and, in some cases, search for new places for further development.

Citing statistics gathered by Tax Free Shopping, Country Manager of Global Refund Latvia Jekaterina Sediha says that Riga as a shopping destination is still popular for tourists from the countries of the CIS. Looking at how Latvians are cutting their spending on fashion and jewelery, foreigners are a large market to target.

One manager of a watch boutique located in central Riga selling luxury men’s and women’s watches said that most clients come from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. "When you talk about those consumers who can afford that price range, you can't really talk about recession. They are looking for exquisite pieces all the time. There's still not enough quantity with this quality," she said.

There are few boutiques specially designed to please customers with the highest desires for quality and exclusivity, such as Dimax, Valle des Bijoux, Vendome, Geneva, and Vertu. In the first six months of 2009, the average purchase sum for watches in such stores was EUR 7000-11500, according to the statistics of Global Refund.

These stores were popular among residents from other countries who invest in jewelery and watches, for example in such recognized brands like Audemars Piguet Jaegerle Coultre, Breitling, Hublot Geneve, Parmigiani, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Dimax, located on Vaļņu Street in Riga, was popular with tourists from Israel, Kazakhstan, Norway and Russia, the average amount for a purchase there being around EUR 10700. The boutique Vertu, selling luxury phones, was especially popular among business travelers from Russia and Ukraine, the average amount per purchase being a little under EUR 8000.

Riga certainly is still attractive as a shopping destination. Prices for many luxury goods are lower than in other European countries, especially when prices for brand-name clothes, footwear and accessories are compared to those in Moscow and St Petersburg. Another reason why business tourists from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine buy more expensive goods is that in Riga there is a partial VAT rebate, which makes things all the more attractive for them.

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 that this will bring more and more tourists and clients to Riga’s fashion scene, even as local purchasers remain quiet.



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