SHANGHAI — The much ballyhooed World Expo here is drawing far fewer visitors than the city promised, with turnout in the first week well short of what’s needed to hit targets.

This story first appeared in the May 10, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to official reports, the first six days of expo 2010 Shanghai drew 902,000 visitors, or roughly 150,000 people each day. But to hit the target of 70 million visitors over the expo’s six-month run, the fair would have to draw 380,000 people every day. Given that the first week included a national holiday and huge amounts of publicity, the odds of traffic picking up significantly aren’t great.

Nobody is calling the fair a flop, but the soft guest numbers could dampen expo fever even further. Global brands had hoped the fair would draw millions of Chinese tourists and provide a platform for brand building in the potentially lucrative market. A slew of brands are opening new stores and staging events to coincide with the expo.

Even China’s state-run media has noted the low attendance, putting a decidedly positive spin on the situation. On Friday, the China Daily newspaper headlined a story on the expo turnout: “Fewer Numbers Mean Easier Expo.”

For retailers in Shanghai, however, the lower-than-promised numbers are nothing to be excited about.

“It’s a good thing Nike is already a well-known brand and expo visitors are not our only target customers,” said Zhou Gendi, manager of a Nike store in Shanghai.

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