UK. Tax free sales to international shoppers rose by 1% year-on-year in December in the UK. This was despite UK retailers experiencing the “most challenging winter trading period since the financial crash”, according to international payments company Planet.

Data from the company’s latest Planet Intelligence report showed that the average transaction value (ATV) among international visitors rose 10% compared with the previous year.

Tax free sales were up among shoppers from all major source markets, with the exception of China. UAE shoppers led the way with 47% growth during the month.

“December is the biggest spending period of the year,” said Planet UK Country Manager David Perrotta. “Figures from the British Retail Consortium certainly paint a gloomy picture of the UK’s retail sector [with retail sales flat in December], but our data suggest that there is a silver lining. The rise in sales to international shoppers will offer some much needed solace to businesses.”

The average transaction value among international visitors rose 10% year-on-year in December.
Image: Planet.

He added: “UK retailers have reason to be optimistic going into the New Year. After a challenging start to 2018, retailers ended the year on a high by converting several consecutive months of easing sales declines into growth in sales to international shoppers in December.

“Planet’s data confirm that international shoppers are becoming an increasingly important audience for retailers to engage with. Major global celebrations in Q1, such as Orthodox Christmas, Chinese New Year and Easter, offer ample opportunity for retailers to capture this business-critical international spend and convert it into growth.”

The promising end to the year was not enough to reverse sales declines to international shoppers experienced during the first half of the year, as tax free sales were down 10% in 2018 compared with 2017.

According to data from analyst ForwardKeys, arrivals to the UK are expected to rise by 1.3% from January to March, with an influx of Chinese and Japanese tourists expected at 22.8% and 22.4% respectively.