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Regional UK cities became tourist shopping hotspots in 2019 says Planet

Published
Dec 19, 2019
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Sales to international shoppers are continuing to grow in London but while its status as the key destination for such shoppers is undiminished, it has lost share to Birmingham and Manchester this year. That’s according to tax-free payments specialist Planet.


Department stores like Selfridges helped to attract more tourist shoppers to Manchester and Birmingham this year



London’s shares of international shopper spend has been 64% this year, but that’s down from 68% 12 months ago. Meanwhile, both Birmingham and Manchester have established themselves as more important shopping destinations in the UK this year, helped by visors travelling to the country for the Cricket World Cup. Planet’s latest figures show that Manchester’s share nearly tripled, from 1.6% to 4.7%, while Birmingham’s nearly doubled, from 0.8% to 1.5% over the last year.

And it added that department stores encourage tourists to spend at least £250 more per transaction in Manchester and Birmingham compared to London.

Not that London is suffering, despite its slightly smaller share, as Planet said its sales to international shoppers grew in 2019, “suggesting that every region is benefitting from these shoppers, while the distribution across the country is becoming more equitable”.

Overall, London is clearly in top spot with its sales rising 3.7% and its average transaction value (ATV) up 6.5% to £417 this year. And in second place? Bicester Village of course. This year it rose to an 18.5% share from 17% in 2018 with ATV up 6.3% to £252 and its overall sales rising 7%.

Manchester has moved up to third place from fourth last year with its sales rising 14.3% and ATV up an astonishing 19% to £679. Last year’s number three, Edinburgh, has been pushed into fourth place with a 1.6% share and a sales fall of 8.4%, but at least ATV grew by 1.1% to £182.

This year Birmingham took fifth place with its sales rising 5.2% and its ATV up even more than Manchester’s, rising 22.3% to £675. It pushed 2018’s number five city, Glasgow, into sixth place with only a 0.6% share as sales fell 14.5%. But ATV growth was 9.1% to £236.

As mentioned, the Cricket World Cup had a big impact, both Manchester and Birmingham hosting many games, and this also meant that Indian tourists made their presence felt. More than 80,000 Indian citizens visited the UK to watch the games.

Yearly sales growth to these international customers increased by 10% in June and 19% in July nationwide, while their ATV came in at £307 and £313, respectively.

As mentioned, some of the cities these tourists went to had higher ATV than London, and Planet said this was aided by the number of department stores in Manchester and Birmingham, “allowing international shoppers to purchase multiple high-priced items at the same time, without having to go from store to store as they would in London’s West End”.

Increased sales of watches and jewellery were also a key contributor to driving the ATV in the two cities. Overall sales of these items increased by 25% in the UK in 2019 so far compared with 2018. Watches and jewellery also happened to be “the preferred purchase of choice for Indian shoppers, who have spent an average of £490 on these items per transaction year to date in 2019”.

Despite the Indian influx, Planet said the tourists buying the most from UK retailers are from China, GCC nations and the US, accounting for 26%, 21% and 7% of the UK sales to international shoppers so far this year, and spending an average of £400, £404 and £392 per transaction.

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