LONDON, May 15 — Buoyed by big names in fashion such as Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney, London has nevertheless fallen out of favour with overseas visitors looking to combine a getaway with shopping. This is due to a “tourist tax” implemented since Brexit.

Whether it’s a stroll through the designer boutiques of Regent Street, a trip to Harrods for an iconic shopping experience, or browsing in Covent Garden or Camden Market, London has long been known as a shopping hotspot. But since the Brexit agreement signed between the European Union and the United Kingdom on December 30, 2020, the British capital appears to be less of a destination for shoppers, at least for those from countries outside the European Union. Non-European tourists are subject to a 20% sales tax on goods purchased in the UK, a contribution referred to as a “tourist tax,” and already denounced last year by many major British luxury brands, who are seeing their foreign customers choosing other luxurious competitors for their lavish shopping sprees. Indeed, overseas shoppers have become accustomed to getting their designer handbags and garments tax-free.

France, Italy and Spain are three countries that are increasingly being chosen by foreign travellers for their shopping trips. France and Italy are particularly desirable, with Paris and Milan the EU’s undisputed shopping capitals. According to a report by Global Blue, a Swiss company offering tax-free services to international travelers, quoted by the Schengen Visa News website, spending in the EU among the 34,000 visitors who have shifted their duty-free purchases outside the UK averaged €3,800 in 2023, compared to €2,900 in 2019, a year before Brexit. That makes for a 31% increase in spending for these travelers.

The purchases were primarily made in France and Italy. In 33% of cases, they were made by travellers from the Middle East. Visitors from the US represent the second-largest group of visitors who combine travel with shopping (19%). The cliché of the Chinese traveller raiding French department stores is a thing of the past. Since the pandemic, far fewer Chinese tourists have been coming to Europe. — ETX Studio

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