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Weak pound could trigger a rise in sales to tourists

Retailers are set to gain from an influx of foreign shoppers coming to the UK, particularly London, to take advantage of the weak pound, according to research.

Figures from tax-free shopping operator Global Refund tracking spend from non-European international shoppers visiting the UK, showed a surge in the amount of shoppers from the Middle East, Japan and the US hitting UK shops.

Visitors from China, Japan and Hong Kong spent the most, with sales to these shoppers up by an average of 275% in January compared with the same time last year. Sales from Middle Eastern consumers rose 150%, while purchases from US and Australian shoppers increased by 136% and 117% respectively.

Global Refund UK vice president of sales Nigel Dasler said the pound’s weakness was the “silver lining” for retailers at the moment. “From December to January we [Global Refund’s retail members] experienced a very positive increase in tax-free shopping,” he said. “This increase was because of Christmas sales and the weakness of the pound.”

William McMullan, UK sales director at UK Tax Free Refund, which also measures visitor spend, said retailers had reported strong tourist-shopper footfall, even in normally quieter periods.

The New West End Company, which represents retailers in London’s West End, is increasing its international marketing budget by 40% this year to highlight the advantages of shopping in the capital, after sales from international shoppers rose by 38% in January.

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