Friday 25 July 2014

  • Kuwaiti visitors have highest propensity to buy clothes or shoes
  • 1 in 3 French tourists buy British food and drink to take home
  • Scotland more popular than Rest of England for souvenir purchases

A new report released today by the national tourism agency, VisitBritain, reveals that visitors from the Middle East are Britain’s most zealous international shoppers, while one in three French visitors buy British food and drink to take home.

In a series of VisitBritain-sponsored questions from the Office of National Statistics, over 50,000 people were asked to identify the items they had purchased on a trip to Britain from a pre-defined list. VisitBritain’s new report, ‘What inbound visitors shop for in Britain’, shows that it’s not just high-end goods that international guests find attractive. The study identifies the most commonly purchased item as ‘clothes or shoes’ (41%), followed by ‘food or drink’ (24%) and then holiday ‘souvenirs’ (16%). Although a high value sector, business visitors don’t appear to shop much when in Britain, with 68% of international business visits involving no purchases at all.

Visitors from the Middle East are twice as likely as typical visitors to buy clothes and shoes. Kuwaiti visitors have the highest propensity to buy clothes or shoes (79%), with high-spending Nigerians in second place (72%), followed by Saudi Arabians (71%). On average, a visit from Kuwait delivers £4,000 to the UK economy and a visit from Qatar almost £3,000. By comparison, a French visitor will spend an average of £343.

However, visitors from the Middle East are not as interested in buying British food and drink, whilst 34% of Belgians, 32% of French and 32% of Japanese visitors are most likely to buy British ‘food or drink’ to take home.

Souvenirs are great mementos for international visitors to remember the places they’ve visited in Britain. Mexican visitors purchase the highest number of small gifts and presents (43%), followed closely by the Brazilians (39%) and Indonesians (35%). Age-wise, the younger generation (0-15 years) are most likely to buy cheap holiday souvenirs for friends and family back home (40%).

Broken down by region, London comes out on top as the area where visitors are most likely to buy items. However, Scotland is more popular than the Rest of England for food and drink purchases, across all markets surveyed. A huge 40% of visitors who go to Scotland buy food and drink, with the North East in second place at 32%.

More tourists buy ‘games and toys’ in Wales than in London or any other part of Britain. The most popular items bought in the South West of Britain were ‘books’, which could have something to do with the success of Rosamunde Pilcher novels overseas, particularly in Germany, as well as the high number of literary festivals that take place across the South West of Britain.

In VisitBritain’s 2012 ‘Shopping in Britain’ report, ‘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 from a pre-defined list. International visitors spent £4.5 billion in Britain’s shops in 2012 - a quarter of total expenditure by foreign tourists that year.

Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy and Communications at VisitBritain, said: “Britain offers a great shopping experience. We have wonderful shops whatever the price range, a unique sense of style and authentic British brands. By inspiring our guests to shop, we can spread the economic benefits of tourism across the whole country, further adding to the export earnings delivered by Britain’s fifth largest industry: tourism.”

Michael Ward, Harrods Managing Director, commented: “Harrods offers that unique combination of the finest luxury products from the best brands around the world and incredible customer service, in an iconic setting rich in British heritage and history. We are of course delighted to be voted the number one dream activity in VisitBritain’s survey by nearly a fifth of respondents, with clothes and shoes topping the list as the most desired items to purchase. We will soon be opening Harrods Shoe Heaven, the world’s largest luxury shoe emporium, and will offer a boutique shopping experience in a store environment.”

Richard Dickinson, CEO of New West End Company, added: “International visitors are increasingly important for London’s West End. The Middle East and China remain the top spending nations in the West End, with the latter spending £1,368 on average, but the appeal of shopping for designer fashion and accessories in London has also rippled out across South East Asia and we saw huge growth from Thailand and Malaysia last year. Retailers across the West End are pulling out all the stops to ensure that their offering caters to the tastes of these growing and very important international markets, from services including tax free shopping facilities, VIP services and multilingual staff.”

For more information contact:

VisitBritain Media Team

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An external view of the main entrance to the Top Shop department store on Oxford Street, London., Oxford Street, London, London, England.