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Brexit tourists give high street a Christmas boost

Christmas sales were boosted this year by an increase in high street spending from “Brexit tourists” taking advantage of the weakness of sterling.

Sales on foreign credit cards on the British high street topped £725m over the Christmas period, up 22% on the previous year. This rise equates to £130m more money spent, payment provider Worldpay has reported.

Stores in London’s West End and duty free stores at London’s Heathrow airport enjoyed a 35% increase in tourist spending. Manchester experienced a 19% rise, and Edinburgh a 24% increase.

The biggest spenders were tourists from Hong Kong, who spent more 69% in UK stores in December 2016 than they had in December 2015. This was followed by the United Arab Emirates, up 31%, and China, up 24%.

James Frost, chief marketing officer at Worldpay, said the rise in bargain-hunting tourists was a welcome lift for ailing high streets.

“Bricks-and-mortar retailers have not had things all their own way this Christmas, and the latest reports suggest UK consumers are increasingly doing the bulk of their shopping online,” he said. “So the influx of free-spending tourists we saw in December will have been a welcome boost for retailers looking to balance the books.

“UK retail centres, including London’s West End, are a magnet for visitors from all over the world, made all the more attractive by the bargains on offer as a result of the weakened pound.”

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