Findings by the national tourism agency estimate that 18 million foreign visitors spent a till busting £4.5 billion in Britain’s shops, meaning 25 per cent of all expenditure by overseas visitors is on the UK’s high streets and in the country’s impressive range of department stores.
The VisitBritain survey reveals that the majority of the shopping spend was on clothes, with an estimated £2.3 billion generated by fashion-conscious foreign tourists. Many visitors also bought souvenirs, gifts and household goods, accounting for around £1.6 billion.
Further analysis of the research found that a 'shopping' tourist spends more – an average of £680 per trip - than an ‘ordinary’ overseas tourist who typically spends £580.
The survey also shows London’s world-class shops, stores and markets are a major attraction for foreign visitors. Around 81 per cent of holiday visitors to London went shopping. The regional benefits are also clear, with between two thirds and three quarters of holiday visitors shopping across the UK.
Of the 18 million visitors, the French are our most prolific shoppers with over two million trips, followed closely by 1.63 million Germans, 1.63 million Americans, 1.3 million Irish and 1.1 million Spanish. The Dutch, Australians, Italians, Belgians and Swedes complete the top ten. Of these, it is the Australians who have the highest propensity to go shopping (over three quarters of all Australian visitors).
Looking further at the findings, the emerging BRIC markets also rank highly when it comes to propensity to shop, with Brazilians (73%), Russians (68%) and Chinese (65%) all having a higher than average appetite for shopping. Indians are about average, with 58 per cent inclined to go shopping.
Breaking down shopping visitors by spend tells an even more interesting story, with tourists from the Gulf States (£442 per head), Nigeria (£432) and China (£405) leading the way. Russians were just out of the top three, spending £362 on average. Brazilians came lower down the table at just £273 a visit – a somewhat surprising finding when taking into consideration their high propensity to shop.
It may come as no surprise however that nearly 70 per cent of female visitors made sure they included a spot of retail therapy during a trip to the UK. Male shopping figures were also quite high at 50 per cent.
VisitBritain also looked into how recent holiday visitors rated Britain for expense and value for money. Results revealed that shopping in Britain was rated above France and the same as Italy in terms of value. Those from long haul markets were especially positive about the value for money of shopping in London compared to Paris.
Additional analysis of respondents from 19 countries found ‘Shopping in Harrods’ was chosen as a top activity by almost one in five respondents (19%) when asked to select their top three ‘only in Britain’ dream holiday activities. This was a more popular choice than visiting Harry Potter locations and taking in the theatre.
Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive at VisitBritain said: “Shopping in Britain is seen around the world as a positive and welcoming experience, and one of the things VisitBritain promotes to encourage visitors. It’s not just purchasing designer goods at Harrods, or rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous on Chelsea’s King’s Road that lures visitors to the UK - a huge number also make the trip to seek out bargains, whether it’s finding the best deals on designer goods at Bicester Village and the McArthurGlen Retail Outlets, or hitting the high street in Edinburgh or Manchester.
“Our shopping experience is world class, with high quality, desirable British brands enticing international visitors at all times of the year and providing real value for money against our competitors."