At Home, Abroad - The Indian Shopper on Foreign Shores

Going by a golden rule of shopping, “If discounts are never-ending, shopping will be never-ending too.” Ekta talks about the compelling factors that prompt an Indian shopper to fly to distant lands just to shop to the hilt.



“We'll be back after a week-long shopping spree at Singapore, mom,” 24-year-old Nupur Dutt informs her mother over the cellphone excitedly. “That's fine Nups,” replies the mother who is not at all surprised to hear of this hurriedly made plan of visiting Singapore by her daughter and her group of friends.

This year, The Great Singapore Sale, from 26 May-23 July, had an estimated over one lakh Indians turning up. Last year, Indians were ranked as the highest-spending shoppers per capita in Singapore as compared to other Asians, be it the  Chinese or the Filipinos.


Indian shopping demeanor

Ask globetrotting Indians why they prefer shopping abroad and the responses vary: “I go shopping to Dubai just to buy my favourite foreign brands from around the globe”...“My shopping trip to Thailand is a family affair. We go to spend quality time together, shop and have loads of fun.”

There are various factors that trigger shopping activity for Indians abroad. At shopping festivals, the large percentage of Indians in long queues at retail outlets depict their desire to make use of the highest value-for-money sales abroad.

For some Indians, long working hours, sedentary lifestyles, and limited avenues for outdoor activity prompt them to catch flights to visit foreign countries, flock to the shopping malls there and shop. This is how they prefer to unwind, away from home.

While shopping is a fun-time activity for the consumers, the perception of retailers may differ to some degree. This is because, in the case of shopping, global or local, the demand need not complement the supply. So how does the retailer ensure that visitors buy and the stock keeps moving? By offering discounts to tempt the customer. At the same time, to get the shopper into his shop, he has to create a comfortable and fun-filled ambience in and around his establishment accompanied by effective logistics. These factors actually decide the conversion factor or, in  other words, the fact that a shopper actually becomes a buying customer

Sales, discounts, schemes during popular seasons and festivals, and events  are some strategies or occasions shopping destinations use to attract countless shoppers from across the world.


Shoppers’ Say...

Retailer talked to some professionals who, despite their busy schedule, prefer to shop abroad. They talk about their favourite shopping sojourn, and what they shopped for.  

SK Srivastav, an advocate and  solicitor, prefers to visit the USA and Dubai, where he looks for mementos, watches, pens, artefacts, perfumes, chocolates, latest electronic gadgets and games and jewellery.        

Namrata Mishra, Director, Renaissance Legal and Learning Systems Pvt. Ltd, prefers Dubai and Singapore, and shops for upholstery, show pieces, contemporary artefacts, jewellery such as pearls and diamonds (Singapore has a wide array of pearl jewellery stores), foot wear, casual wear and hand bags.

Saroj J. Tejuja, Proprietor, Saroj  Hair and Skin Salon, goes to Dubai and all the way to Australia, to buy beauty care products, office accessories, crystal ware, chinaware, contemporary art pieces, perfumes, emblems, clothes and glares.


Spend Trend – Indians’ 5 favourite shopping destinations

Five popular foreign shopping stops for Indians include Singapore, Dubai, Thailand, Australia and the USA.  The best time to shop in Singapore is generally during the Shopping Festivals; Dubai is ideal for shopping in the summers (April-June) and winters (December-February); and the USA - any time of the year.


Delightful Destinations

Retailer now takes you on a jaunt to these favoured destinations, exploring the best places to shop - be it cities, markets, or streets - day or night.



Country: United Arab Emirates           

Language: Arabic      

Dubai offers the Indian shoppers hours of thrill with a complete global shopping experience. Though shopping malls have glamourised the Dubai landscape, the grandeur of traditional souqs (markets) is the reason why many visitors frequent them.

Generally souqs are divided into areas selling similar items, and many are colloquially known by what they sell, such as, the spice souq, the fabric souq and the plant souq.

Shopping malls offer an incredible array of international brands, including American, European and Asian. Gold, electronic goods, textiles and carpets, generally of high quality, are available.

Dubai Shopping Festival: This festival is held in March every year. Discounts offered range from 20 to 50 per cent. Raffles, prize draws, cultural events, street entertainment, spectacular displays of fireworks are a part of the festival.

Duty-free shopping: Most Indians shop at the duty-free outlets at the airports. The prices are extremely competitive, and duty-free promotional campaigns draw a major chunk of the shoppers in which they stand a chance to win significant cash prizes and luxury cars. From the most popular consumer items, like gold and jewellery, visitors from India also shop for a huge array of goods, including cigarettes, alcohol, leather goods, electronic and photographic equipment, music, toys, perfumes and cosmetics, luxury gifts, fashion wear and sporting equipment.



Country: Republic of Singapore          

Language: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil          

Collectors and connoisseurs of fine arts, antiques and jewellery will find that Singapore has an extensive range of art galleries and antique houses to suit discerning tastes.

Further, two of the world's most reputable auctions houses - Sotheby's and Glerum & Bonhams - feature a wide range of items, from increasingly popular south-east Asian paintings to books, maps, jewellery, and porcelain.

The Great Singapore Sale: Indian shoppers wait with baited breath for every June, when the island-wide mega sale season offers simply irresistible discounts of up to 70 per cent. Filling their shopping bags with unbeatable bargains, they scour for shops for items ranging from fashion, watches, jewellery and consumer electronics, including luxury brands. A complete mix of shopping and entertainment can be experienced at events like the Great Singapore Shopping Challenge where the ultimate bargain-hunters are crowned!

Offering a treasure of gifts and mementos inspired by Singapore's rich heritage, the Raffles Hotel Museum Shop offers coasters, t-shirts and posters featuring the famous Singapore Sling, scenic posters of the old and new Singapore, beautiful batik sarongs, locally-designed trinkets and unique mementos.

In the lap of nature, the lush green Singapore Botanic Gardens, offer a good collection of natural history books and nature-based souvenirs.



Country: Kingdom of Thailand

Capital: Bangkok

Language: Thai, English         

The Thai shopping experience is impossible to resist. The ardent shopper has a tremendous variety of goods to choose form and buy. You can shop for designer goods in the malls, or browse through handicrafts and knick-knacks in the many markets. All in all, a place where everyone can shop and enjoy with whatever small amount of money one has.

Markets vary in their timings. The produce markets open before dawn, more general markets open during the daytime, but in many areas there are Night Markets where you can visit stalls,  sit in the open, and eat.

Shopping in Bangkok: Bangkok is one of the most competitively priced cities in Asia. Shopping is one of Bangkok's major attractions. People prefer to purchase Thai silk and cottons, modern and traditional jewellery including precious gemstones, semi-precious gemstones, silverware, nielloware, pewterware, ceramics, celadon, woodcarvings, paintings, and clothing. Bargaining is common in most stores and markets ensure favourable prices and service.

Bangkok's principal markets are Chatuchak weekend market, Bangrak market, Thewet market, Lang Krasuang market, Woeng Nakhon Kasem, and China Town.

Other popular shopping areas include: Suriwong, Silom area; Mahesak, Silom, New Road area; Phloenchit, Pathumwan area; Sukhumvit Road area; Pratunam, Phetchaburi Road area;  and Banglamphu.



Country: Commonwealth of Australia 

Capital: Canberra       

Language: English, Aboriginal languages         

For hunters of Australian souvenirs, called 'Australiana', ranging from T-shirts to boomerangs, shoppers can stroll into small shops in local towns.

Exclusive purchases made by Indian shoppers include clothing, leather and sheepskin products; opal and other precious or semi-precious stones; excellent local wines and modern art sculpture and paintings. Exhibitions of bark paintings, boomerangs and other tribal objects are on view and sale in Darwin, Alice Springs and the state capitals; mostly depicting stories.

For shoppertainment seekers, there are plenty of options to keep them hooked. In some cities, major stores are open even on Sundays. Shoppers can relax, eat, drink and make merry at corner stores, restaurants and snack bars that are open well into the night in most cities. Late-night shopping is common in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart and Darwin, Sydney, Canberra and Perth.



Country: The United States of America

Capital: Washington, DC        

Language: English

Many Indians enjoy shopping for bargains in the American markets. Popular items like American fashion jeans, children's clothing, plush and fine bed linens are a hit with shoppers from India and other countries.

Shopping at American department stores is a worthwhile experience as they offer a wide selection of merchandise including fashion clothing, house wares, appliances, luggage and jewellery. Some national discount chains with stores across the US are K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target and Caldor.

Shopping during sales is an unending phenomenon in the States. July-August is the time for end-of-summer sales. In November, the Thanksgiving Day sale of pre-Christmas merchandise is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. December 26 to mid-January is when big after-Christmas sales attract customers. In February, all the winter merchandise goes on sale. In addition, there are many special promotions and clearance sales.

Sears and JCPenney's are two large national chains with stores across the US, featuring good quality merchandises at affordable prices.

For Indian shoppers on a buying spree, the outlet store is the best place to visit. Malls with hundreds of stores housing top brands like Levi's, Timberland, and Pioneer can be found in most states, and they are often a bargain seeker's paradise.



The vast land is being transformed as boundaries give way to trade. The Indian subcontinent offers an enriching shopping experience for visitors from around the world. It will only be a matter of time when foreigners will choose India as one of their favourite shopping destinations abroad.

Trends change, but shopping as an activity remains the same. People of every age-group enjoy this experience. And those who get to cross the seven seas and shop to their heart’s content, undoubtably get the best of both worlds.

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