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Our response to the UK Government's decision on VAT RES

Our response to the UK Government's decision on VAT RES


The UK government's decision to withdraw the VAT Retail Export Scheme (VAT RES) has come as a shock to the entire UK Retail industry, hoteliers and airport chiefs


The decision will leave Britain as the only country in Europe without a Tax Free shopping scheme for international visitors. This would hurt the tourism, retail and leisure industries at a time when they are already reeling from the impact of Covid-19.

This removes one of the key attractions for people to visit and shop in the UK. It will lower the number of visitors to the UK, decrease the revenue for the UK retail sector, and effectively be the spark for thousands more redundancies in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. The impact of this decision has far ranging consequences for retail, hospitality, tourism and the UK economy at large.

Patrick Waldron, CEO, Planet

Jobs across the UK in jeopardy

The UK's tourist VAT refund scheme benefits businesses across the whole of GB.

 

UK retailers, hoteliers and airport chiefs have warned the chancellor that scrapping Tax Free shopping for international tourists has put 70,000 jobs in jeopardy.

 

"Crucially, this is not a London problem: The sales from international visitors play a huge part in securing employment for more than 160,000 people in all parts of the UK. Whilst London and other major shopping hubs in the UK are the shop window, the engine room is nationwide, with highly skilled manufacturing in Elgin and Speyside, Yorkshire and Lancashire, Staffordshire, Northamptonshire and Somerset amongst others"  - Walpole CEO Helen Brocklebank. 

 

"We pride ourselves in delivering a five star visitor experience in Edinburgh to a mainly international audience. The removal of the UK VAT retail export scheme will greatly impact sales of Scotch whisky and gift items to these visitors and further disadvantage a badly hit sector in these very challenging times.  Edinburgh relies heavily on international visitor spend and we ask that the UK government reverses its decision and helps keep the UK a competitive and attractive destination for international visitors" - Susan Morrison, Chief Executive, The Scotch Whisky Experience. 

 

"Tourists flock to Scotland for its rich heritage and cultural sites, contributing north of £90 million to the Edinburgh economy alone. In the midst of a pandemic, it is disheartening to learn of the UK government's decision to withdraw a key attraction for international shoppers – the UK VAT Retail Export Scheme. Hopefully, the decision can be looked at again to help protect 1,800 jobs that rely on tourism in Edinburgh alone" - Balwidar Singh Landa, Director, Scottish Experience, Elgin Cashmere

 

There is strong regional use of VAT RES, with 50% of store visits now outside of London and sharp growth in the validation and refunding of VAT RES claims at regional and secondary airports. The volumes of VAT RES forms processed for refunding at Gatwick increased from 233% from 2013-2019[1], for example.

Planet is working closely with Industry Associations in the UK – The New West End Company, The British Retail Consortium, Walpole and The Association of International Retail (AIR) to mobilise a unified response to change this decision. 

Patrick Waldron, CEO, Planet

UK businesses face major disadvantage

 

HM Treasury's decision comes at a time when France is set to benefit from expanding their own Tax Free scheme. It's another blow to thousands of UK retailers, the leisure and hospitality sectors who will be badly impacted as returning tourists in 2021 go to France, Italy, Spain and other EU countries rather than the UK.

 

"We have built a reputation for increasing sales for over 1,500 retail partners across Europe. For more than ten years, our 22,000 Chinese Tour Guides have built invaluable bridges for high-spending Chinese tourists with the West. The news that the VAT Retail Export Scheme is being removed by the UK is extremely surprising. Across Europe, the shopping power of Chinese travellers is well known – shopping tourism itself is highly competitive with these wealthy families and individuals choosing their destinations and itineraries based on luxury brands' price and the products they sell. Removing Tax Free shopping from the UK will see more Chinese choosing to travel across the EU and spend their money where it will go further, instead of in the UK" - Maggie Lin, Country Manager, Eastsong Consulting

 

The Treasury have said that retailers will be able to offer VAT-free shopping to visitors who purchase items in store and have them sent direct to their overseas addresses. This simply doesn't make sense. Shipping goods to home addresses in key international source markets is a major issue that opens the door to lost or damaged goods and additional costs to retailers.

 

"It is really unbelievable that the government would think this is a beneficial decision for the economy. Foreign customers will no longer find us competitive, especially for those coming from countries to which we can not ship alcohol, (mainland China, Brazil, India to name just the three largest ones). We already have customers calling us and sharing their concerns. We have had a number of Chinese customers calling the day after the government broke the news as there were articles in China saying that the UK is no longer the place to go for shopping. There was obviously a lot of potential in terms of Tax Free shopping for EU citizens visiting the UK in the post Brexit era. This won't be happening in this context, which is a shame. It will obviously have an impact on the hospitality industry; we own a Michelin star restaurant (Hide) that partly relies on tourists. Overall I think it simply sends the wrong message; at a time when the government wants to promote the Global Britain, this says to the world that they will get less when they visit the UK. It simply does not make sense" - Julien Le Doaré, General Manager, Hedonism Wines

For over ten years we have worked with leading UK retailers providing Tour Guide services for Chinese visitors. Our mission has been to work with them to help attract thousands upon thousands of high-spending visitors to the UK every year. We pride ourselves on bridging the gap between the East and the West. Our feedback suggests that 70% of our tour customers will choose to make their luxury purchases in other EU destinations such as France, Italy and Germany if the Tax Free Shopping scheme is stopped in the UK. We really hope the decision is re-considered before the UK economy is dealt another blow.

Ming Ming Dong, Managing Director, Sinolink

The reaction from international shoppers 

 

Across Chinese social media consumer sentiment is strong:

 

"Strange decision, so many other European countries, why go to the UK for shopping then."
"I have to pay for the delivery fee also?? What if the shop loses my purchase or my luxury purchase breaks?"
"Customs in China checks very strictly the international delivery packages, I will have to pay a lot of import tax for sure!"
"International postage is very expensive, if tourists need to pay for the shipping cost, I don't know what the benefit to the customer is." 
"80-90% of the goods which are sent to China will be taxed!"
"I do not trust Royal post, many postal deliveries could not be tracked, for sure it will be lost!"
"I am willing to pay the shipping fee, however if the goods will be taxed by Chinese customs and it will be a big cost, it might be more than the tax refund that I received!"
"Shocked! I can no longer 'buy buy buy' in UK anymore."
"UK’s neighbour France must be very happy about this decision."
"The only country in the world to come to a decision which will harm the economy. I will go to Dubai."
"Hainan started a Tax Free service and UK stopped it?!"

Food, entertainment and shopping have long been the core reasons for travel. Shopping remains to be a crucial driver for Chinese tourists. Purchasing during travel is important and the VAT policy has been a huge incentive for that. We fail to understand the decision the UK government has made to withdraw the VAT RES. In our view, this will only further hurt the UK retail, hospitality, luxury and tourism industries that are already under distress from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashley Dudarenok, China Marketing Expert, Founder of Alarice & ChoZan

"We have been researching and analysing Chinese consumer behaviour since 2011. We have witnessed and become familiar with the rise of the middle-class Chinese tourists, and how they have become one of the world's most prominent groups of high-spending tourists.

 

"Food, entertainment and shopping have long been the core reasons for travel. While new travel patterns and more experience-driven travelling are on the rise, shopping remains to be a crucial driver for Chinese tourists. Purchasing during travel is important and the VAT policy has been a huge incentive for that.

 

"We fail to understand the decision the UK government has made to withdraw the VAT RES. In our view, this will only further hurt the UK retail, hospitality, luxury and tourism industries that are already under distress from the COVID-19 pandemic. While overseas travel is still very much unavailable at the moment, it will rebound. Meanwhile, Chinese are travelling domestically like never before. The total number of domestic flight trips to be made over this Golden Week (between 1-8 October) will reach more than 15 million, a 10% jump from last year, according to Qunar.

 

"According to the latest report from BCG, the demand for luxury products from Chinese shoppers is predicted to increase by as much 30% this year, in sharp contrast to worldwide spending that will likely contract by 45%. The withdrawal of the VAT RES will make tourism-related industries in the UK significantly less competitive. Chinese travellers will return to Europe. They will spend money, but outside of the UK." - Ashley Dudarenok, China Marketing Expert, Founder of Alarice & ChoZan

 

Our response

 

Planet is working closely with Industry Associations in the UK - The New West End Company, The British Retail Consortium, Walpole and The Association of International Retail (AIR) to mobilise a unified response to change this decision.

 

Read Planet CEO, Patrick Waldron's open letter: UK to lose up to £10bn in tourist spend to EU as part of Brexit plans 

What you can do to help

  1. Contact your local MP
    Find your MP's contact details

  2. Write to the Chancellor
    Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
    Chancellor of the Exchequer
    1 Horse Guards Road
    London SW1A 2HQ
    public.enquiries@hmtreasury.gov.uk

  3. Issue your own press release
    We are happy to provide a quote to include in your press release, and join media interviews with you.
    You can also provide us with a statement / quote on the situation to use in our external communications. Get in touch with us.

  4. Raise awareness by sharing social media coverage
    We will be sharing coverage from key media outlets from the Planet LinkedIn company page. Please follow us to keep up to date. Use the hashtag #saveUKretail and tag the Chancellor
    @RishiSunak @hmtreasury @KemiBadenoch, relevant local MPs and decision-makers as appropriate.

Latest media coverage

  • The Guardian: Chancellor warned scrapping tax-free shopping risks 70,000 jobs
  • Manchester evening News: This little known shopping discount is disappearing - and it could cost Manchester millions
  • DFNI: UK Government’s ‘hammer blow’ VAT decision ‘could cost jobs’
  • Financial Times: UK retailers look to challenge scrapping of VAT relief for overseas visitors
  • Forbes: International Tourists To U.K. Set To Lose Tax-Free Shopping Rebates
  • The Moodie Davitt Report: Potential disaster as UK Treasury axes tax free sales on other categories while confirming return of duty free sales to EU-bound travellers
  • Manchester Evening News: This little known shopping discount is disappearing - and it could cost Manchester millions
  • The National: VAT change 'will cost Edinburgh £90m' and could affect 1800 jobs
  • This is Money: Chancellor's duty-free ban 'will lead to the loss of 138,000 jobs and cost the economy £3.5bn'
  • The National: Holyrood not consulted over UK's 'astonishing' cancellation of tourist VAT scheme

Walpole CEO Helen Brocklebank's letter to the Chancellor 

Helen Brocklebank's letter to the Chancellor

 

AIR letter to the Chancellor signed by 21 UK CEOs 

AIR's letter to the Chancellor

 

Association of Business and Retail Sales of Greece (HRBA) letter to the Chancellor 
HRBA's letter to the Chancellor

If you would like to join the cause and fight to reverse this decision, please get in touch with us. As an industry, we are in this together.

Help Save UK Retail

Source

[1] Planet Intelligence data

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