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Visitors to the UK love a good shopping trip, and so does the economy


According to the national tourism agency, Visit Britain, shopping is one of the most popular activities for international visitors to the UK. The agency’s figures claim that 64% of visits in 2014 involved shopping, with an estimated £5.5bn being spent on retail therapy during the year.

The report, entitled ‘Types of shops visited by overseas visitors’, reveals just how lucratively beneficial this can be for the UK economy, with around 22 m international visitors indulging in retail therapy in 2014.

Visitors departing the UK were asked what types of shops they visited: ‘High Street’, which include shopping centres in its definition, ‘Luxury’, ‘Gift’ and ‘Boutique’. Half of the visits surveyed included a trip to a High Street store.

Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy & Communications at Visit Britain, said “Retail therapy is one of the great relaxing pursuits for international holiday visitors to the UK – with 80% going shopping.”

Reportedly, women are more likely to go shopping during their visits to the UK: 77% of women shopped, compared to just 54% of men, with a shopping trip to Oxford Street reported as the second most appealing activity for female visitors to the UK.

Young visitors are highly likely to go shopping during their visits, with 85% under 16 and 77% of 16-24 year olds visiting High Street stores, Gift and Boutique shops.

“Average spend for people who come to the UK primarily to shop is £346 a night, a huge lift on the average spend of £83. Inbound tourism is Britain’s third biggest service export and supports sectors such as retail as well as hotels and attractions.”

Looking at the propensity to purchase certain items, clothes or shoes were the most popular, covering 40.7% of items purchased. Other popular items included food and drink with 24.0% and Other Holiday Souvenirs at 15.6%.

“International visitors are increasingly important for London’s West End.” said Jake Tyrell, Deputy CEO at the New West End Company. “Retailers across London’s West End are pulling out all the stops to ensure their offering caters to the tastes of these growing and very important international markets.”

Published on Thursday 27 August by Philip Gallagher

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