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Foreign shoppers share in UK’s digital Christmas


UK retailers enjoyed a sharp jump in online browsing figures from international devices last quarter. 

Figures from the British Retail Consortium and Google reveal that beauty products were the most popular items internationally between October and December, with browsing rates on mobile devices growing by 51%.  

Conversely, browsing from tablet devices plummeted during the period. Beauty products saw a 12% drop in interest on tablets. Similarly, apparel figures rose by 41% on mobile, and dropped 16% on tablets. 

“The final quarter of the year was very much a digital one,” said the Chief Executive of the BRC Helen Dickinson. The internet played a vital role in driving sales for UK retailers, and, as has been the case for some time now, mobile devices were key to this. Among the ever expanding range of mobile devices used by the internet-savvy overseas shopper, smartphones continue to be the most popular. 

Halloween makeup and perfume were among the most popular beauty items for international customers. Apparel saw seasonal interest, too, with Christmas jumpers and Halloween costumes being amongst the most browsed items, alongside wedding dresses and engagement rings. 

Spain, Hungary and Argentina showed the highest growth at 62%, 57% and 56%, respectively, whilst South Korea saw only an 8% rise, and Japan experienced a decline. This may seem odd for some, given the surge of interest in international goods among Chinese consumers, as evidenced by Singles’ Day. 

“Across many Western countries we have seen high mobile growth, from mature nations such as the US and Germany, through to Hungary and Poland,” said Martijn Bertisen, Retail Director at Google. “However in Asian countries that growth has slowed. In 2014 we saw strong mobile growth from our Eastern neighbours – classically early mobile adopters – and we can see the impact of that now.” 

Indeed, m-commerce in China took off at great speeds, largely due to the fact that mobile devices were the primary form of internet access for many. Largely as a result of tourism, Chinese customers are the highest spending international group in the UK. 

Published on Monday 25 January by Philip Gallagher

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