Chinese luxury spenders keep UK tills ringing

Kasmira Jefford
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BRITAIN’S high street and luxury stores enjoyed record breaking tourist spend in the first quarter of the year driven by a surge in Chinese and south east Asian tourists (SEATs).

Global Blue, the tax-free shopping services company, said spend from Chinese shoppers grew by 62 per cent in the three months to March, despite figures last week showing that retail sales in April were hit by cautious UK consumer spending,

Retailers from high end to high street benefited from earlier key holiday periods than usual, with spend peaking around Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival in January.

Chinese shoppers, who typically spend around £747 per transaction, now account for a fifth of all tax-free spend across the UK, according to Global Blue – more than spending from the Bric countries combined.

Richard Brown, vice president of Global Blue UK, said: “Despite concerns for China’s economic outlook in the last quarter, we have seen the number of travellers able to afford shopping focused trips to the UK rocketing.”

SEATs also posted a strong quarter with spend by tourists from Malaysia up 42 per cent year-on-year and Thailand up 51 per cent over the same period in 2011.

Spend from Japanese tourists – up 43 per cent this year – is expected to rise this week with more tourists coming over during the country’s national holiday period, or “Golden Week”.

Global Blue, however, expects luxury sales to fall flat during the Olympics as high-spenders from China and the Middle East put off visiting the capital.