LONDON – Russians and Americans have returned with a vengeance to central London, snapping up luxury goods made cheaper by the weak pound, according to a report from London Luxury Quarter, the industry association of retailers in Mayfair, St. James’s and Piccadilly.
According to the report, overall tax-free shopping in the area rose 39 percent in the January-to-March period, while in the month of March, Russian visitors’ tax-free spend grew 88 percent and American spending rose 116 percent year-over-year.
The rise in Russian spending is significant, as those tourists had virtually disappeared from London — and the rest of Europe — due to the devaluation of the ruble, geo-political issues and a recession in the country that has only just begun to wane.
The report said that in the year to date, American visitors accounted for 11 percent of London Luxury Quarter’s international tax-free shopping market. Their presence on the big shopping streets of London has grown significantly in the past year: In March, they accounted for 12 percent of total tax-free spend, compared with 7 percent in January 2016.
“The steady growth of U.S. spend and the bounce back from Russian visitors brings diversity to London Luxury Quarter, which has been dominated by Chinese and Middle Eastern visitors for some time,” said Mark Henderson, chairman of London Luxury Quarter. “Brands welcome the mix as it promotes their names in visitors’ home markets and supports their global success, rather than relying on a single market.”
Chinese visitors’ tax-free spend in London Luxury Quarter continued to increase for the year to date, rising 68 percent. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong saw growth of 45 percent, 24 percent and 80 percent, respectively.
Last week, in its second-half trading update, Burberry Group Plc said the U.K. saw a 90 percent surge in U.S. customers due to the weaker pound.