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Middle East visitors to flock to UK shops this summer

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Tax-free shopping expert Global Blue forecasts that there will be a “surge” in Middle Eastern shoppers visiting the UK over the summer months, with an expected rise of 16 percent in transactions from July to September.

With approximately 37.8 million visitors throughout 2018, Global Blue’s forecast comes as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) markets look to make the most of the weak pound to purchase luxury British brands, as its latest research reveals that over the last three months GCC transactions in the UK have increased by 17 percent.

The Middle East is the UK's second-most valuable market, added Global Blue in a statement, with Gulf Countries’ citizens accounting for more than a quarter of the total tax free shopping spend, with Qatar accounting for 8 percent of the total share, the UAE and Kuwait having 7 percent respectively and Saudi Arabia 6 percent.

The research also reveals that visitors will look to spend, on average, more than 1,000 pounds during their time in the UK this summer, up 4 percent from 2018. Additionally, out of the six countries that form the GCC, Saudi Arabia has grown at the fastest pace with the number of transactions per visit up 28 percent, and the UK has become their first choice destination.

UK retailers to benefit from “surge” in Middle Eastern shoppers this summer

Middle Eastern visitors are attracted to the UK’s retail offering, as it is home to “some of the most sought after luxury brands in the world” and Global Blue data reveals that almost 2 in 5 visitors (38 percent) buy from British brands such as Burberry, Mulberry and within luxury department stores such as Harrods and Selfridges.

Amongst the purchases, 50 percent are in the fashion and clothing sector as Middle Eastern visitors continue to feel that London offers them the latest trends, while 17 percent is spent on leather goods, 5 percent shoes and 4 percent jewellery.

With Ramadan falling two weeks earlier in 2019, Global Blue has also noticed an “increased drive” in UK retail partners targeting the GCC as the post-Ramadan shopping period is extended over the summer months. Retail flagships including Harrods, Selfridges and Fenwick’s are increasingly offering exclusive deals, rewards and premium services targeting GCC visitors to guarantee spend.

Derrick Hardman, managing director of Global Blue UK and Ireland, explained: “We have seen a huge increase in visitors from the Middle East this year and we expect to see the trend remain strong this summer as visitors look to make the most of the weak pound ahead of Brexit this October.”

Images: FashionUnited

Global Blue