Retailers are hoping that a combination of new flight routes from China, the weak pound and the increasing ease of visa approvals will help to drive forward strong retail sales in 2017 – the year of the Rooster.Chinese tourists have descended on London and other retail centres in the UK en masse over Christmas, keen to snap up designer bargains. Popular destinations have ranged from Harrods through to the Burberry discount outlet mall in Hackney, and retailers are hoping that an influx of visitors from the second-biggest economy in the world will spell good news for British industry.
Already, figures show that air flight bookings between China and the UK have risen by 88pc in the past year for the Chinese New Year period which runs from 18 January to 1 February.
Chinese shoppers are also being attracted by the incredibly low British pound, which puts high-end designer brands in their affordability bracket, especially when compared to prices back in China. The post-Brexit sterling drop has made the country 11pc cheaper for Chinese visitors. British brands also appeal for their quality heritage and on-trend credentials.
The trend is in evidence with the rise in Mandarin-speaking store assistants in the city, with some designer shops saying that up to two-thirds of their customers over Christmas were from China. Even better, Chinese retailers spell good news for British retail as they tend to spend hard – shelling out around £2,1700 on each visit – around 3.5 times more than other shoppers.
VisitBritain have discovered too that Chinese visitors prefer to book mid-priced hotels so that they can save their money for luxury goods purchases, especially jewellery, watches, purses, handbags and other personal accessories.
The New West End Company, a group that represents high-end retailers in London’s Regent Street and Oxford Street, has released figures that show how custom from Chinese visitors has increased by 121pc in the year leading up to the festive period. This compares to European spend in the same period which rose by 12.6pc and domestic spend which rose by 10.2pc.
These shops are now adjusting to accommodate their new high spenders from overseas. Both Harrods and Selfridges have installed Alipay which is extremely common in China and a product of Alibaba, the e-commerce wholesale site. Other stores are handing out traditional Chinese treats or offering products themed for the year of the Rooster.
As a general trend, British designer brands have seen a spike in tourism spending since the referendum vote last summer. Burberry saw its sales grow by 40pc in September to December of last year. Gieves & Hawkes saw a sales uplift of 35pc for the same period.
Chinese New Year is always anticipated by retailers to be good for Chinese business in the UK, due primarily to the number of Chinese students that study and live in the UK and whose families come over for the holiday. The news is also good for restaurants, cultural attractions and allied services who have also benefited from the sales boost from China’s new and increasingly moneyed middle classes.