Russian and American shoppers in particular are also key to the spending bonanza, new data from London Luxury Quarter showed.
International tax free shopping data for the area that includes Mayfair, St James’s and Piccadilly showed growth of 39% for Q1. During March alone, Russian visitors’ tax free shopping spend increased 88%, while American spend grew an even faster 116%, year-on-year.
For Russian visitors, it marked a return to London following tough times for their domestic economy that had caused a long-term decline in Russian luxury spend. March saw the highest growth in international tax free spend by Russian visitors in the area in more than two years.
The Russian spend was also helped by the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution that has seen a revived strong interest in the country’s culture, prompting art exhibitions and events across London.
Meanwhile, Chinese visitors’ international tax free spend in London Luxury Quarter continued to rise with a 68% Q1 surge, while the other constituents of the top five, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Hong Kong, saw growth of 45%, 24% and 80%, respectively.
As that more-than-doubling in American spend shows, it’s no surprise that for the first quarter, American visitors accounted for a rising percentage of London Luxury Quarter’s international tax free shopping market. That made the US second only to China, which stayed in top spot on a 23% share of spend. The impact of American shoppers is key and it’s growing. In January 2016 it accounted for only 7% of the total and Q1 saw it at 11%, although it was clearly growing at the quarter wore on with the March figure being 12%.
And the arrival of American tourists isn’t only being helped by the weak pound with London Luxury Quarter saying that the strong American economy, supported by the high levels of consumer confidence have encouraged international travel – and to the UK in particular.
The USA is one of the top three visiting markets to the UK alongside France and Germany, according to VisitBritain. And while shopping is not necessarily the main aim for all of these tourists, their enthusiasm for British culture does help to bring them to the historic London Luxury Quarter and elevates their interest in heritage British brands.
London Luxury Quarter chairman Mark Henderson said that the steady growth of US spend and the bounce-back from Russian visitors “brings diversity to [the area], which has been dominated by Chinese and Middle Eastern visitors for some time. Brands welcome the mix as it promotes their names in visitors’ home markets and supports their global success, rather than relying on a single market.”