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Swiss Spent 4.5 Billion Francs Shopping Abroad: Study

A third of Swiss residents bought clothes and groceries abroad last year, spending 4.5 billion francs ($4.8 billion), according to a study published today.

Landlocked Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and prices for goods ranging from jeans to vegetables to books are often much higher than in neighboring France, Germany, Austria and Italy. In recent years, a rise in the Swiss franc against the euro has prompted many in Switzerland to cross the border to shop. Newspapers have dubbed them “shopping tourists” and their willingness to travel in search of deals has left Swiss retailers struggling.

The amount spent on targeted shopping abroad is the equivalent of about 5 percent of Swiss retail sales, according to a study by market research institute GfK, carried out for the Swiss association of retailers, which represents Migros, Coop, Manor, Denner, Valora Holding AG and Charles Voegele Holding AG. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said they were going abroad to take advantage of cheaper prices, the study showed. Swiss citizens spent another 3.8 billion francs on acquisitions carried out when traveling abroad on vacations or during business trips, GfK said.

At 41 percent, residents of the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino were the most frequent shoppers outside of Switzerland, above the national average of 31 percent, the study determined. Even so, the bulk of the spending took place in Germany, followed by France, Italy and Austria, according to the data.

The biggest share of the expenditure -- 31 percent -- was on clothing and shoes, followed by food, then toiletries and finally home furnishings.

Swiss consumer prices have fallen over the past year on the back of cheaper imported goods. The Swiss National Bank set a cap of 1.20 per euro on the franc in September 2011 to shield the economy from deflation and a recession.

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