UK. Tax refund specialist Global Blue will open its seventh VIP Globe Shopper Lounge in Europe, in the heart of London’s West End, later this month. The lounge offers new marketing opportunities for brands, and could keep the highest spending travellers downtown rather than in airport duty free.

Global Blue anticipates that the prestigious 240sq m Mayfair venue will greet over 40,000 high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in its first year. The company says that its current lounge network – in Milan, Rome, Venice, Madrid, Munich and Paris – has been “a phenomenal success”.

Subtle brand messaging in a comfortable luxury space (all images here and below are of the Paris Global Blue VIP lounge).

If the forecast is correct, the London unit will automatically become a flagship location as, last year, the existing six lounges welcomed over 130,000 HNWIs in total. Guests can use the lounges through personal invitations from merchants in stores across Europe.

Apart from the ‘relax, refresh and refund’ service element of the lounges aimed at shoppers, Global Blue is offering brands the opportunity to connect with HNWIs via tailor-made and measurable multi-channel advertising.

Luxury brand partners join up

The company has already confirmed MaxMara, Aquazzura, Fortnum & Mason and Longchamp as partners, with more names expected to join. The London lounge – the second largest so far – has four rooms. Luxury marques have options to take over an entire room for total brand immersion by showing, for example, runway shows through VR headsets.

After targeting and connecting with lounge users, merchants can measure the impact of their campaigns via Global Blue’s tracking system, which examines new leads, drive-to-store activations and conversions in-store.

Montblanc and Longchamp are among the brands discreetly on display to VIP guests.

Global Blue Managing Director UK and Ireland Derrick Hardman commented: “For the first time, merchant partners will be able to create new relationships with VIPs through bespoke, interactive opportunities.”

Early tax free refunds in the lounge “puts cash back into the hands of affluent globe shoppers, boosting their spending in the West End and allowing them to optimise their time at the airport” claims Global Blue. Guests at the London lounge will also benefit from five multi-lingual experts, free Wi-Fi access and a dedicated shopping consultancy.

Upscale and sophisticated – the atmosphere Global Blue is aiming for with its VIP lounges.

Tourist spending drive

At New West End Company – a group promoting and delivering programmes and campaigns to support business in London’s key shopping hub – Chief Executive Jace Tyrrell said: “This lounge opens as we complete our £10 million (US$16 million) makeover of Bond Street, and as the new multi-billion pound Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) arrives, linking the West End to Heathrow Airport in under 30 minutes. Together these make the West End the number one shopping and leisure destination for tourists.”

According to New West End Company, a quarter of visitors to London’s West End come from abroad and spending on average £3.5 billion (US$5.6 billion) a year.

August has become “one of the UK’s strongest months for international spend”, according to Global Blue. In August 2017 tax-free sales increased by +7% year-on-year – and were up +16% among Chinese shoppers. The company is optimistic that the London lounge will welcome over 3,500 VIPs in its first month of operation.