LONDON — An influx of students from China and Hong Kong meant tax-free spending in the U.K. by customers from those countries rose 10 percent year-on-year in September, according to travel-retail company Global Blue. The rise was the highest in spending by customers from those countries in the past six months, the firm said.
Global Blue attributed the surge in spending to families coming to the U.K. to settle their children at British schools and universities, noting that according to data from the U.K.’s University and Colleges Admissions Service, there was a seven percent increase in international students being accepted to British universities in 2014. Of those international students, 26 percent are Chinese, according to data from The Complete University Guide, cited by Global Blue.
Global Blue said that friends and family who arrive with students spend both on “all the necessities to set students up for the academic year in their new homes,” and then go on to use the trip to buy fashion and accessories for themselves. On average, visitors from China and Hong Kong spent 668 pounds, or $1075 and 639 pounds, or $1028 respectively, per transaction.
Mark Henderson, chairman of the London Luxury Quarter, which represents businesses in the Mayfair, St. James and Piccadilly area, said that he’s known students to buy “one watch or bag in a store and [return] with their families who later spend millions on bespoke items, whilst staying in nearby five star hotels,” Henderson said, adding: “there is scope for longer term economic value as these individuals are more likely to choose the area when planning to buy a property or invest in London.”
Global Blue said that London universities are particularly popular with Chinese families – in 2013, over 2,300 students enrolled at University College London were Chinese, while at the London School of Economics over 1,000 students were from China.