Global Blue are predicting that the final quarter of 2014 will boost what has been a slower year in terms of international spend in the UK. VisitBritain’s figures show visitor numbers have seen the biggest growth in Q4 (up 13%) over the last five years (2009-2013) and Global Blue reported soaring growth in spend of 16% YOY for quarter four 2013 over the Christmas period.
January-October 2014 figures show China and Middle Eastern nations have remained strong as the highest spenders, with China representing 25% of total spend and seeing a 5% increase YOY to date, followed by Kuwait representing 8%, up 8% YOY, and Saudi Arabia representing 7% and Qatar representing 6%, both seeing double digit growth of 10% and 15% to date YOY respectively. With average transaction values to date at £740 for Chinese shoppers and up to £1473 for Middle Eastern shoppers, Global Blue is predicting that these nations will boost total international spend for the year by being the key spenders for Christmas.
This year has seen slight weakened international spend in the UK due to economic and political issues in key nations (2013 was also a record for inbound spend). UK retailers have seen a -26% YOY fall in Russian spend to date amid political unrest in Ukraine and weakening currencies have also seen growth from Thailand and other South East Asian nations suffer, with Thai spend also down -26% YOY.
However, as Christmas comes, spend is expected to pick up for the last quarter. According to VisitBritain, Q4 in 2013 saw spend by Chinese shoppers soar 26% higher than the same period in 2012 and Middle Eastern nations Kuwait and UAE saw spend up an astounding 30% and 44% YOY for the period, as shoppers flocked to pick up British gifts for family and friends that they can’t get at home.
Gordon Clark, UK Country Manager of Global Blue, comments: “Christmas is one of the key periods for international shoppers coming to the UK. Last year saw strong sales across the board, with all nations reporting significant growth. Political turmoil and weakened currencies have left shoppers from some nations, particularly Thailand and Russia, less likely to spend in the UK this year, so retailers are focusing their services on targeting the traditional Chinese and Middle Eastern markets who have continued to contribute most significantly to sales. Tax free shopping, more than ever, has become an integral part of the Christmas strategy for retailers.”
Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy and Communications at VisitBritain added: “London is an international Christmas shopping destination, but our numbers now show that major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh are starting to emerge as strong alternatives. Last year the North West of England was the second most popular destination for international shoppers.
“Shopping is a lucrative business. High spending Qataris contributed an astonishing £5,077 per visit across Britain during the same period last year, that’s eight times the market average, so we continually look to tailor our overseas marketing to bring us the highest returns from such regions. “Whatever the price range or product, shopping allows the economic benefits of tourism to be spread across the whole country.”
The festive season is an important time in the UK retail calendar and whilst not all global shoppers celebrate the Christmas tradition, luxury accessories and fashion still top the shopping lists. In addition to this, the Boxing Day sales are extremely popular and contribute greatly to spend.
With around 75% of global shoppers making their ‘wish list’ of purchases before heading to the UK, a growing need for retailers to work on pre-travel marketing techniques in addition to tax free services and wider currency choice has become apparent. Global Blue has experienced an increased demand for companies to utilise their services during the Christmas rush.
Retailers and hoteliers will attract international shoppers over the Christmas period using bespoke concepts and packages. Luxury department store Fortnum and Mason are collaborating with Global Blue to offer international shoppers the chance to receive 10% off when they spend £300 in their stores on Piccadilly and in St Pancras Station when they show their Global Blue Card – the new asset which has autofill data technology to facilitate the tax refund service.
According to Global Blue and statistics from VisitBritain, this year has also seen a variation in popular shopping destinations in the UK. Cities such as Manchester and Liverpool are becoming more established as major shopping destinations and will therefore contribute to the final quarter’s boom in international spend. In the last quarter last year, the North West saw the second highest numbers of visitors, behind the South East.
Simon Binns, Heart of Manchester BID manager, comments: “Manchester city centre is anticipating significant spend from international shoppers in the run-up to Christmas, largely due to the wealth of designer brands available in the city. Over 100 city centre stores offer tax-free shopping with many retailers increasing services designed to specifically assist international shoppers in the run-up to Christmas. Visit Manchester is launching its new 2014/2015 Tax Free Shopping Guide in time for the busy Christmas period with 20,000 guides in Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese and English hitting key stores in the beginning of December.”