International shoppers overlook mainland Europe in favour of UK

The UK was the European destination of choice for international shoppers in June, with retailers experiencing an impressive 13% spike in sales to non-EU shoppers. The UK was leagues ahead of its European neighbours, as the second-best-performing destination market, Italy, recorded a growth rate of 6%. Other major destination markets Spain, Italy and Germany fell out of favour in June, facing sales declines of up to 6%.

The UK emerged as a clear winner across all international spending categories last month according to international payments company Planet, who facilitate VAT refunds for international shoppers. Their data showed that the volume of Tax Free shopping transactions were up by 5%, while the average spend value per transaction among international shoppers (ATV) rose by 8%

The first half of 2019 marks a stark contrast with the same period a year ago, with sales increases enjoyed by retailers in all but one of the first six months of the year. The same period a year earlier saw double-digit declines in Tax Free sales to international shoppers in all but one month. Source: Planet Intelligence.

These data confirm the streak of good fortune currently being felt by UK retailers, as sales to international shoppers have risen for the fifth month in a row.

David Perrotta, UK Country Manager at Planet said, “The last time that UK retailers experienced a similar period of sustained sales growth to international shoppers was exactly two years ago, when a weaker pound  following the Brexit vote resulted in a surge in tourist spend. Retailers will be pleased to know that we can now see that a recovery is well underway.”

Shoppers from Middle Eastern nations spent big in the UK last month, a spike likely driven by the Islamic Eid al-Fitr celebration. The holiday is typically marked by travel abroad and the exchange of presents, and therefore a high volume of luxury gift purchases in major retail destinations such as London, Paris and Milan. This resulted in a monumental 116% year-on-year rise in sales to shoppers from Kuwait and 83% to those visiting from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) among UK retailers. This is a striking contrast to last years’ figures, which saw sales to shoppers from Kuwait and the UAE plummet by 21% and 17% respectively.

Analysis reveals that the UK was the firm favourite for these shoppers this year, with those from Middle Eastern nations failing to make it into the top five source markets for any of the major European destinations during June, when Eid al-Fitr took place.

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