British retailers lure overseas online browsers

Kasmira Jefford
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THE NUMBER of overseas shoppers browsing the web for British clothing and footwear retailers has surged in the past year, with department stores grabbing a greater share of the attention, new figures released today show.

Retailers have been pushing ahead with international expansion plans to offset slowing growth and weak consumer spending at home, using their websites to widen their reach.

According to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Google, the number of overseas consumers looking for UK brands rose by 13 per cent in the three months to the end of March compared with last year.

The Chinese were the most active, with searches on all devices from tablets to smartphones increasing by 50 per cent, followed by Russia, France and Germany.

Smartphone searches increased by 43 per cent compared with an 18 per cent rise in tablet searches.

Meanwhile department stores such as House of Fraser and Debenhams, who have been busy launching foreign language websites over the last year, enjoyed a 77 per cent leap in the number of visitors to their sites.

“Apparel is a key driver of export for our UK retailers, which is reflected in this report,” Google’s retail director Peter Fitzgerald said.

“China and Russia continue to represent a huge opportunity for retailers, with the fastest query growth for UK apparel. In addition, our fashion-led UK department stores see the fastest growth from overseas markets, demonstrating the consumer trend towards breadth of choice and availability.”

The number of Britons browsing overseas apparel retailers increased by five per cent, thanks to new names such as J Crew from the US and Sandro from France entering into the UK.

In total, UK retailers saw a 26 per cent rise on smartphone searches from all shoppers while tablet visits grew by 17 per cent.