SPENDING POWER: Global Blue, the tax-free shopping agency, said the power of the Middle Eastern shopper is not to be underestimated in the U.K. According to a recent report, the Gulf nations were the top performers in the U.K. so far in a year that has seen a rapid deterioration in Chinese and other tourism.
Gordon Clark, Global Blue’s managing director U.K. and Ireland, said spending by Middle Eastern nations has accelerated amid a “turbulent” tourist market in London. “In April alone, Arabic shoppers accounted for 42 percent of total U.K. sales, showing a 7 percent growth versus the previous year, and bringing the spotlight to the Gulf, especially as China shows signs of a difficult, declining market.”
Global Blue also said it expects to report a surge in tax-free spending in the U.K. from the pre-Ramadan rush. The annual religious observance is already taking place and will end on July 5. The years 2014 and 2015 saw a rise in tax-free shopping by Middle Eastern countries one month before Ramadan, while the month of June saw growth of up to 66 percent in both of those years.
According to the report, shopping is a preferred activity of Middle Easter visitors to the U.K. with 56 percent including it as part of their travel plans.
In the period January-April, tax-free spending by tourists from United Arab Emirates rose 24 percent year-on-year; followed by Qatar at 12 percent; Saudi Arabia 7 percent; the U.S. 6 percent, and Kuwait 5 percent. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s tax free spending declined 40 percent while China and Malaysia both fell by 21 percent. Hong Kong retreated 17 percent while Thailand declined 1 percent.
Separately, the retail developer Westfield said it has seen an influx of Middle Eastern shoppers in London and has been catering to a growing demand in special services such as Arabic-speaking concierges, prayer rooms, extended opening hours during Ramadan. They have also been tailoring styling services around cultural sensitivities and preferences and offering same-day delivery to homes or hotels. These customer services will run until September.