Middle Eastern shoppers are beating the Chinese to be the number one shopper group leading tax free spend in the UK this year, according to a report from shopping tourism company Global Blue.
International spend by Middle Eastern shoppers is up 17 per cent y-o-y for the period January – July 2013, with Qatar and Kuwait leading the way showing a total growth of 29 per cent and 28 per cent y-o-y.
In particular Qatari shoppers are noted to contribute to this growth with an average spend per transaction of £1,423. Looking ahead to the next few months, Global Blue is forecasting that growth will continue and Middle Eastern shoppers accounted for 26 per cent of total spend.
Ramadan fell particularly early this year so retailers are now preparing for a further increase of sales to Middle Eastern shoppers in August. Global Blue reported a significant uplift in pre-Ramadan sales with June figures up 27 per cent y-o-y and the traditional rush which is seen during Eid, the festival marking the end of month-long fast, will likely reveal a similar trend. In preparation for this, UK retailers can ensure they offer Arabic-speaking staff, later opening hours, VIP rooms and tax-free services to accommodate the Middle Eastern shopper.
Gordon Clark, UK Country Manager of Global Blue, comments: “With their taste for luxury goods, these (Middle Eastern) shoppers come to the UK for the high-end designer brands and the continued growth is a testament to their huge spending power. Many stores have taken steps to capitalise on this spending power by taking measures to attract and facilitate shoppers from the Middle East offering late store opening hours and female Arabic speaking staff all help to drive spend in the UK.”
Following pressure that Britain visa regulations were too tight for Chinese shoppers, John Lewis Retail Director Andrew Murphy was appointed as chairman of The UK China Visa Alliance last month.
According to Global Blue, as much as 56 per cent of shoppers from the UAE have claimed shopping to be their favourite pastime activity when visiting the UK. With an average transaction value of £794, high-net-worth Middle Eastern shoppers are known to favour luxury brands looking for high-end fashion and leather and travel accessories.