Jet-Setters Who Flock to Mall of America
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
At many U.S. airports there is a rush of foreign tourists arriving. And stoked by the falling value of the U.S. dollar, they're here with one thing in mind.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Shopping. They're hitting all the places you would expect. Madison Avenue in New York.
NORRIS: Chicago's Magnificent Mile.
SIEGEL: Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
NORRIS: And Bloomington, Minnesota.
SIEGEL: That's right. That's the home of the Mall of America, the 500 store shopzilla of a mall just outsize Minneapolis. Forty million people visit the mall every year. More and more are coming from abroad, especially Western Europe: the U.K., Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
NORRIS: And for them, the weak dollar means American prices are cheap. Today the Euro is worth about $1.33. That's a 20 month high.
SIEGEL: The Swiss franc will buy $1.19, and the British pound is worth about $1.97.
NORRIS: David Fingland works for KLM Airlines in London. He's in the Twin Cities this weekend with a group of British travel agents.
Mr. DAVID FINGLAND (KLM Airlines): We all landed in Minneapolis Thursday afternoon around about 4:00 p.m., quickly checked into the hotel, and then we went from the hotel straight to the Mall of America for some shopping. And we met up last night, had a meal and everyone's back at the mall again earlier on today. A few people went downtown to do their shopping downtown, but predominantly everyone is here, really, just to shop.
NORRIS: So everyone at the meal pulls out their receipts, compares war stories?
Mr. FINGLAND: Yes, they do.
NORRIS: Who got the best bargain?
Mr. FINGLAND: I think the ladies tend to get the best bargains, to be perfectly honest with you. They know a bargain when they see one.
NORRIS: So they arrive here with empty suitcases.
Mr. FINGLAND: And go back full.
NORRIS: What is it that they're buying?
Mr. FINGLAND: It's a variety of things. Clothing seems to be the number one choice at the moment, particularly as it's tax free. Electronic goods are also big sellers, but I would certainly say it's clothing and shoes.
NORRIS: But help me understand how much you might save on a particular item.
Mr. FINGLAND: A pair of Levi jeans, for argument's sake, in the United Kingdom would sell for approximately 50 to 55 pounds. Here in the U.S., it would be looking at approximately 30 to 35 pounds for the same pair of jeans.
NORRIS: So a nice savings.
Mr. FINGLAND: It is a very nice savings, yes.
NORRIS: You said for argument's sake. Is a pair of Levi's going back with you in your suitcase?
Mr. FINGLAND: Yes, they certainly will be. More than one pair, that's for sure.
NORRIS: So is this sort of a timed exercise? You drop them off at the mall and they have how many hours before they've got to head back to the bus?
Mr. FINGLAND: We would be here really from about opening hours until about 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening.
NORRIS: All day long at the mall.
Mr. FINGLAND: All day long, all weekend long.
NORRIS: Do the savings pretty much cover the cost of the trip?
Mr. FINGLAND: Certainly if you spend enough money, then yes.
NORRIS: Is that an incentive to spend a lot of money?
Mr. FINGLAND: There is an incentive to spend the money. Definitely.
NORRIS: You know, we've heard of ecotourism and other forms of tourism, cultural tourism. What do you call this?
Mr. FINGLAND: Retail therapy.
NORRIS: David, thanks so much.
Mr. FINGLAND: Thanks very much.
NORRIS: That's David Fingland. He works for KLM Airlines in London, one of many European shoppers hitting American shopping hot spots this year.
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