News story

Overseas visitors spend £4.5 billion a year in Britain's shops

Our world-class department stores prove a hit with tourists, new figures show.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Oxford St Shopping

The UK’s high streets are a major attraction for foreign visitors, according to research by VisitBritain.

Findings by the tourism agency estimates that 18 million visitors spent £4.5 billion, meaning 25% of all expenditure by overseas visitors is on the UK’s high streets.

Clothes are biggest draw

According to the survey, the majority of the shopping spend was on clothes, with an estimated £2.3 billion generated by foreign tourists. Souvenirs, gifts and household goods were also popular; accounting for around £1.6 billion.

The survey shows London’s world-class shops, stores and markets are a major attraction, with around 81% of holiday visitors going shopping during their visit to the capital. The regional benefits are also clear, with between two thirds and three quarters of holiday visitors shopping across the UK.

Further analysis of the research found that a ‘shopping’ tourist spends more, an average of £680 per trip, than an ‘ordinary’ overseas tourist who typically spends £580.

Building on 2012

Minister for Tourism Hugh Robertson said: “Britain’s world class retail sector is a big attraction to overseas visitors whose spend in our shops makes a significant contribution to our economy. We will continue to promote what is great about Britain in key international markets to help grow tourism further, on the back of a fantastic 2012.”

Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive at VisitBritain said: “Our shopping experience is world class, with high quality, desirable British brands enticing international visitors at all times of the year and providing real value for money against our competitors.”

Further information

Published 28 February 2013