US influx to UK luxury retailers continues in May

UK retail sales to US shoppers grew by 27 per cent in May, as American consumer confidence hit a six-month high, contributing to a transatlantic spending spree.

The boost in sales marked the ninth consecutive month of double-digit sales increases to American visitors, according to the latest sales figures come from Planet, which facilitates VAT refunds for international shoppers.

In addition to the increase in overall sales, the average spend by a US shopper in the UK also rose, to an average €474 in May - €110 higher than the €364 recorded a year earlier. Currency fluctuations will likely have enabled this, with the US dollar strengthening against the pound by 4.9 per cent from May 2018 to May 2019 and by 5.5 per cent against the euro in the same period.

The UK proved popular with international shoppers more broadly in May too, with an 11 per cent year-on-year uptick in arrivals coinciding with three per cent growth in tax-free sales. This builds on an already successful start to the second quarter, with tax-free sales in April witnessing 15 per cent growth compared with the same period last year. UK sales to international shoppers have now grown in four of the last five months.

Planet explained that the UK typically has registered a lower average transaction value (ATV) among international shoppers than other major destinations such as Italy and France. However, figures from recent months have shown a steady rise in the average spend per purchase by international shoppers, up 12 per cent in May.

“Once known predominantly as a cultural and heritage destination, shoppers from across the globe are now seeing the UK as one of Europe’s bigger-ticket luxury shopping destinations and are beginning to spend more per purchase while here,” commented David Perrotta, UK country manager at Planet.

“We expect this growth in sales to international shoppers to continue in the coming months as we head into the summer holidays – major events such as Eid al-Adha and the Cricket World Cup promise to bring shoppers from across the Gulf nations and India to Europe and the UK – so it looks like UK retailers are set for a strong end to the second quarter.”

Retail sales to international shoppers across Europe more widely were also strong, with retailers witnessing seven per cent growth in sales and a four per cent rise in ATV. Italy led the pack with the biggest rise in Tax Free sales, at 10 per cent.

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