Asia update: Japan and Singapore reinforce regional TFS growth

Global Blue’s Asian Tax Free Shopping (TFS) sales performance remained positive for a fifth consecutive month, with Japan and Singapore sustaining growth. Korean sales continue to decline as political tension in the region escalates.


  • Asian TFS sales grew by +7% in March, driven by a +10% increase in transactions across the region
  • Singapore returns to growth for the first time in several months, with sales growing by +1%
  • Korean TFS sales continues to suffer from political tension with China, resulting in a -32% sales decrease during March

After a busy Chinese New Year, Asian TFS performance returned to modest growth in March, increasing by +7%. Driven by a +10% increase in transactions, March represented a fifth consecutive month of positive growth for Asian Tax Free sales.


Key markets

While Korean sales continued to decline, both Singapore and Japan benefited from the influx of Chinese shoppers looking for alternative destinations to Korea.

Japan drives regional growth

  • Japan continues to drive the majority of growth within the Asian TFS market, with sales up +24% in March.
  • Growth was driven by a rise in transactions (+37%), as Chinese shoppers continue to visit Japan in large numbers.

Singapore returns to growth

  • Singapore returned to growth for the first time in several months, up +1% during March, driven by an increase in transactions.
  • Singapore saw transaction growth across higher TFS spend brackets (over 400,000 JPY) during Q1, a positive sign for the county’s luxury shopping market.

Korea continues to decline as tensions rise

  • Chinese curbs on travel to South Korea continues to dramatically reduce traveller numbers, meaning sales declined by -32% during March. 
  • With political tension and group visa restrictions showing no signs of abating, performance will continue to be impacted.


Key nationalities

Despite a normalisation of travel across the region after Chinese New Year, Chinese Globe Shoppers continue to drive growth in Asia. Strong months for Korean and Japanese travellers helped to deliver growth across the region.

Chinese confident to spend

  • Chinese sales grew by +10% across the region during March, while transactions remained flat at +0%, as average spend rose faster than transactions for the first time in several months.

Strong growth for Koreans

  • With a volatile environment at home, the rise in Korean travellers increased during March, with transactions across Asia up by +54%.
  • As a result, Korean sales increased by a healthy +33% during March.


Category spend

March ends a positive Q1 for Asia, with the region experiencing growth across all spend categories. Fashion and accessories sales grew by +56% year-on-year, while department store sales (+20%) and watches and jewellery sales (+14%) also experienced steady growth across the first three months of the year.