WEST END sales to Chinese shoppers rose by a whopping 154 per cent year-on-year last week as visitors from the country took advantage of the cheap pound to celebrate the Chinese New Year in London’s key shopping district.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company which represents businesses around Oxford Street said: “The West End’s iconic shopping streets are popular year-round with Chinese visitors to London looking for retail therapy. However, we traditionally see a surge in Chinese spend over the New Year celebratory period, and this year did not fail to disappoint.
“We witnessed a staggering 153.8 per cent surge in Chinese sales from the same period in 2016 and a 73.1 per cent yearly increase in transactions, suggesting a greater number of Chinese shoppers on the streets.”
Over the same period China’s renminbi has fallen by only four per cent against the dollar, leaving tourists with far more bang for their yuan.
The boost during the Chinese New Year holiday has added further to the increase, with sales rising by 17.2 per cent on the prior week. The holiday fell on 28 January this year.
The stronger renminbi also pushed up the value of items bought, with transaction value increasing by 46.6 per cent year on year amid a 73.1 per cent greater number of transactions, meaning more visitors spent more.
London has become a leading location for Chinese tourists, while visitor numbers to the UK from China and Hong Kong have risen by almost 70 per cent in the four years to 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics’ latest figures.
John Dickie, director of strategy and policy at business group, London First, said: "Chinese visitors contribute a huge amount each year, making the most of London's attractions, hotels, shops and restaurants. But the UK is still losing out on up to £1.2 billion annually because we attract far fewer Chinese tourists than our major European neighbours."
Dickie called for an extension of the current visa regime to make it easier for tourists to return to the UK.
"The government’s trial of a ‘one-stop shop’ for both Schengen and UK visas should be expanded and we need to roll out the anticipated 10-year visitor visa as soon as possible to help repeat visitors," he said. "Otherwise we risk not being on the map for many Chinese holiday-makers."
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company (which represents businesses around Oxford Street) said: “We traditionally see a surge in Chinese spend over the New Year celebratory period, and this year did not fail to disappoint.”