UK tourist spend dips but luxe London continues to rise says Global Blue

UK retail in general may be struggling but London is continuing to benefit from an influx of tourists and tax-free payments specialist Global Blue said Thursday that there’s a “continued appetite for luxury shopping in the capital among international visitors as the countdown to Christmas begins.”


London is bucking the UK retail trend as tourists flock to its luxury stores

Its data from the last 10 months shows that overall visitor retail spend across the UK is down compared to the same period last year, but the big spenders from outside of the EU are flocking to the capital and to Bond Street in particular.

Data from Global Blue shows that the average spend on Bond Street (where the retail mix in recent years had evolved from mere luxury to a more ultra-luxury focus) among international visitors increased by 4% year-on-year from January to October 2018. International shoppers spent an average of £1,341 per transaction during this tine.

And it’s particularly interesting given how tough October was for the fashion retail sector that during the month, average spend on Bond Street was up by 13% compared to the same month of the previous year. 

“The numbers demonstrate the importance of international visitors to UK retailers and the economy, a market which has continued to grow according to Visit Britain’s forecasts for 2018,” Global Blue said.

Visit Britain’s annual forecast has predicted continued growth in visitor numbers to the UK for this year and is forecasting that we’ll end the year on 40.9 million visits in total, an increase of 4.4% on 2017. Importantly, it’s also forecasting a bigger (7.1%) increase in visitor spend compared to 2017. 

So just who are the biggest spenders? Not the much-talked-about mainland Chinese resident, it seems. The top spenders on Bond Street include visitors from the UAE, Qatar and Hong Kong. UAE shoppers are at the top of the table, averaging £2,074 per transaction between January and October, which is up an impressive 19% year-on-year.

They’re closely followed by Qatari shoppers who spend £1,964 per transaction (up 7 %). Meanwhile Hong Kong shoppers spend £1,837 per transaction (up 15%).

But the biggest spending increase doesn’t come from any of these three territories with the most significant surge in spend having been seen among visitors from Indonesia, who are averaging £1,551 per transaction, up 20% compared to 2017. 

So London, and Bond Street specifically, are prospering and seem to justify the payments firm’s recent opening of the UK’s first Global Blue VIP Lounge in London’s Mayfair. But what about Global Blue’s figures for the rest of the country? It said that on a national scale, its insight on international tourism spend shows a gloomier picture. Average spend is down by 3% year-on-year. 

Derrick Hardman, UK and Ireland MD at Global Blue, said: “It’s encouraging to see the growing demand for luxury shopping among our international visitors. It truly demonstrates London’s global reputation as a first class retail destination, known worldwide to offer an outstanding luxury retail experience.”

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