Aug 21, 2017
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US tourists spend big in UK says Global Blue

Aug 21, 2017

The continuing weakness of the pound means US tourists are still streaming into the UK with shopping one of their key priorities.

Luxury brands have benefitted as more Americans then ever shop in the UK

It’s now much cheaper for Americans to stay and shop in Britain after the pound’s plunge in June last year (from which it hasn't yet recovered) and the first half saw UK stores reaping the benefits.

That’s according to Global Blue, the company that processes the VAT refunds that non-EU visitors can claim.

It said that with the dollar at a historic high against the pound, Americans spent 70% more in Britain in the first six months of the year. US shoppers could buy goods at an 18% discount compared to early June 2016 and a 29% discount compared to 2014, which translates into a hefty saving when it comes to local brands such as Burberry and Mulberry, as well as the big names of European luxury retail.

Despite concerns and some anecdotal reports that terrorist attacks could dampen enthusiasm for UK visits, tourism seems to be holding up well and is showing no signs of tailing off. US visitors were second only to Chinese visitors during June, Global Blue said.

 And that’s good news for stores as UK retail has been under pressure all year with lower footfall from local shoppers. Britons, worried about the effects of Brexit and a slowing economy, have been reining in their spending on discretionary items.

Importantly, tourist spending isn’t only dependent on rising numbers. While 16% more Americans arrived in Britain in H1, the 70% surge in spending means that each one spent much more than usual in the country.

London has been the main winner from the extra spend with its concentration of luxury stores being a major draw. But tourist-related spending outside of London has risen 56%, reflecting reports from research firms that suggested coastal towns and heritage locations have also seen a shopping surge. They would also have been helped during late spring and early summer by warm weather.

During June, all overseas visitors spent £2.2bn in the UK, which includes hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions as well as retail stores.

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