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Apr 23, 2019
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US shoppers flock to UK for local luxe fashion brands, Meghan effect is key says Global Blue

Apr 23, 2019

UK retail may have struggled during March, but one consumer group continued to spend and actually increased the amount they splashed out. Shoppers visiting the UK from the US grew their spend by 30% last month, accelerating faster than previously, according to tax-free shopping specialist Global Blue.

The Meghan effect is boosting US shopper interest in buying British brands when travelling to the UK

It said that Americans, who have long been known to flock to the UK for its museums, palaces and cultural offerings, are now often arriving in the country with a shopping focus rather than cultural one. This has resulted in the UK capturing 24% of all the US tax-free shopping spend globally. This may not seem a surprise given that there are no language barriers for Americans in the UK, but with luxury shops and hotels in many other countries being awash with English-speaking staff, the language barriers elsewhere are quite low as well.

Clearly there are other reasons for the surging interest. Global Blue’s UK & Ireland MD Derrick Hardman said that “the ‘Meghan effect’ has contributed to the growing desire for British brands amongst US visitors. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex provide the perfect combination of a British royal and US celebrity and as such, royal engagements amplify desirability to purchase luxury British brands worn by Meghan.” 

In fact, Global blue said that “quintessentially British brands are a huge draw for American shoppers” with “fashion and clothing being the preferred choices.” British brands take the biggest share of spending for these shoppers while they’re in the UK, followed by Italian and French labels.

American travellers, who are becoming increasingly comfortable with the concept of shopping tax-free, now account for a sizeable 7% of total tax-free sales in the UK. And looking across Europe as a whole, in 2018, 54% of international shoppers landing in Europe were from the US.

Hardman said March’s specific 30% boom in spend was due to several factors both in the UK and the US, “combining to make the UK a particularly desirable location for Americans to shop.”

The strong dollar and weak pound were key, of course, which meant shopper’s dollars went further. Lower-cost flights also played a part. 

It meant Americans had plenty of cash to spare for spending while in Britain and Global blue said that they have been spending an average of £930 per tax-free transaction. Their increasing willingness to spend large sums can also be seen in the data collected by Global Blue’s VIP Lounge in Mayfair, London. There, US citizens are the second most popular nationality taking advantage of the service and experience, being 17% of the total visitors in 2018.

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