Destinations Asia

Foreign Tourists Line Up Overnight for Post-Holiday Sales in the UK

Dec 26, 2013 3:30 pm

Skift Take

Visitors from the Middle East and China are accountable are an increasing portion of UK retail sales. More tourists are in the UK during the holidays and all are searching for bargains, making Boxing Day an opportune time to create relationships with high-spending customers.

— Samantha Shankman

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Ambernectar 13  / Flickr

The sign for Selfridges & Co in London. Ambernectar 13 / Flickr


International shoppers from around the world boosted sales on British high streets yesterday as Qataris, Chinese and Russians hit the shops – spending four times as much as people from the UK.

As bargain-hunters began waiting in line in front of Selfridges, central London it was apparent the queue was made up of people from all around the world – particularly from China.

Many had started queuing before dawn or even the night before to ensure they were first in line to snap up bargains on designer bags, clothes and homeware.

Due to a tax levied on overseas designer goods in China many items are far more expensive than in the UK, meaning a bag from a luxury company such as Burberry or Mulberry could cost the Chinese four times as much in their home country.

Chinese shoppers are the biggest spenders in the UK of all foreign nations.

However, shoppers from Middle Eastern nations top the charts for the most spent per transaction.

Qataris spend the most on average – £1,714 ($2,814) per transaction – followed by those from the United Arab Emirates, who spend an average of £1,372 ($2,253).

The Chinese spend £1,367 ($2,245) on average per transaction but are more likely to return to the tills with more goods, according to shopping tourism company Global Blue.

Shoppers from Russia, Nigeria and India are also among the highest spenders, while the amount spent by Thai shoppers has risen 42 per cent year-on-year.

Gordon Clark, UK manager of Global Blue, said “With international shoppers, particularly from China, Russia and Nigeria, spending on average four times more than domestic shoppers, retailers can look to boost Christmas trading by tailoring their in-store experience to these high-spending tourists.”

Many high-end retailers such as Harrods have begun hiring Mandarin-speaking shop assistants to help Chinese customers, most of whom arrive in store with a specific list of goods they want to buy.

Waiting in the Selfridges line was Wang Tianyi, 21, a student from China who is studying in Liverpool, and his girlfriend Sun Yeting, also 21, who is on holiday visiting him.

The couple had been queuing since 4am and said they hoped to pick up lots of gifts for their family. They planned to head straight for the luxury goods, Mr Tianyi said.

He added: “We will buy the things we like.”

Wei Tuiao, 23, from China, said: “I have been into Selfridges this morning to get a Louis Vuitton handbag.”

Nevy Frega, 20, and Hassan Frega, 19, from Egypt, said: “We come to the sales every year, it is a great opportunity to buy lots of designer and high street clothes – we love British fashion.”

Sue West, retail director at Selfridges, said the Boxing Day sale is very important for its international customers.

“The Chinese market is hugely important to Selfridges. It’s one of the fastest growing international markets that we have.

“But likewise, we have a lot of international customers. You’ll see a lot of Europeans today.

“You’ll see a lot of people from all over the world.

“So, really our international market is growing very, very fast.

“Asia and China is a big part of that,” she said.

Average spend per transaction per nationality:

Qatar: £1,714 ($2,814)

UAE: £1,372 ($2,253)

China: £1,367 ($2,245)

Russia: £950 ($1,560)

Nigeria: £950 ($1,560)

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