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Profile of American tourist in the UK changes as US visitors swap sightseeing for shopping during festive period

Profile of American tourist in the UK changes as US visitors swap sightseeing for shopping during festive period


Tax Free sales to Americans during this year’s Thanksgiving period were up in major cities across the continent, suggesting that US shoppers are now becoming one of European retailers’ highest value customers.


  • US tourists boost sales for UK retailers during Thanksgiving period with a rise in Tax Free spending compared with the same period last year
  • Overall Tax Free sales figures in UK hit 17-month high in November as tourists from across the world flock to UK for winter festivities
  • UK retail sales to international shoppers show consecutive months of improvement in promising sign for the sector

18th December 2018

 

Typically known to visit Europe for cultural and heritage activities rather than shopping, US tourists are now crossing the pond to spend with the world’s leading brands. New data from Planet, an international payments provider, revealed that Tax Free sales to Americans during this year’s Thanksgiving period were up in major cities across the continent, suggesting that US shoppers are now becoming one of European retailers’ highest value customers.

 

This is good news for the UK in particular, where Tax Free sales during the week in which Thanksgiving took place rose by 5.6% compared with the same period last year. Data suggest that the profile of the average US shopper is changing too, with the average transaction value (ATV) up by an impressive 7.6% compared with the same period last year. Previously, US tourists while high in number were relatively low spenders compared with big ticket source markets such as China and the Gulf States.

 

Despite only accounting for 18% of Europe’s Tax Free sales to US shoppers during the Thanksgiving period – a decline compared with last year’s 24% – American tourists are choosing to part with more cash while shopping in the UK than in previous years. The same can be said for the month of November as a whole, which saw year-on-year Tax Free sales to US shoppers grow by 11%.

 

Commenting on the figures, David Perrotta, UK Country Manager, Planet said: “The winter holiday period is crucial for UK retailers looking to capture international spend, representing a peak in US shopper activity as tourists come to the UK to join in with the festivities and, importantly, to shop. Our data show that American tourists start their Christmas shopping earlier than any other nation, spearheading the Black Friday sales opportunities.

 

“Interestingly, we have seen consistent growth in Tax Free sales to US shoppers over last few months. The domestic economic situation in America – which has seen record levels of employment and a strong dollar – has led to a rise in consumer confidence that is paying dividends for retailers both at home and abroad.

 

“The UK is now being seen by US tourists as not only a place of impressive cultural heritage, but somewhere that they can shop for quality brands in too. This confirms the UK’s position as one of Europe’s most popular retail destinations with shoppers from what is developing into one of the retail world’s most lucrative source markets,” said Perrotta.

 

The influx of tourists coming to the UK in one of the most popular months for UK retail has meant that the declines in Tax Free sales that had marred 2018 has eased to its lowest level in 17 months. The 3% year-on-year decline in Tax Free sales in November compares favourably with a 6% decline in October and 2018 low of -23.5% in April. This data could signal a sustained recovery in the Tax Free shopping sector at a time when many UK retailers are struggling to get customers through the doors.

 

“Last month, shopper numbers in the UK witnessed their largest November drop in a decade as Black Friday saw domestic shoppers turn online to take advantage of slashed prices. Retailers should not be disheartened: our data is proof that the UK is attracting a different type of customer, and one that spends almost four times as much on average as domestic consumers. Engaging with international shoppers this winter is essential for retailers looking to boost profits in the biggest spending period of the year,” added Perrotta.

 

For more insights from Planet read the full Planet Intelligence report here.

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