According to VisitBritian, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK soared 37% in the first nine months of 2015, making China one of the UK’s fastest-growing tourism markets. With the UK relaxing its visa policy for the Chinese since the beginning of 2016, a growth in the number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK is expected this year, with a surge expected during the widely celebrated Chinese New Year holiday.
Shopping is a major pull factor that attracts Chinese tourists to the UK. Many Chinese have been shown to seek out and indulge in iconic European brands and show a preference towards in-store luxury shopping experience.
Elizabetta Camilleri is a retail expert with an MBA from London Business School who launched SalesGossip an online mobile service curating fashion and beauty promotions, from the London Business School Incubator.
On the subject of Chinese tourism and shopping, Ms Camilleri says: “When it comes to shopping in the UK, Chinese often have a predisposition for luxury European and British heritage brands such as Burberry, Mulberry and Barbour. Major reasons behind this popularity include the lower price and tax of branded items in the UK relative to Asia.”
The in-store experience for Chinese consumers shopping abroad is also pivotal to their spending habits. “Chinese shoppers don’t travel all the way to Europe for street items,” Ms Camilleri says. “They value the VIP luxury experience, such as personal shoppers and premium delivery services.”
Nevertheless, Chinese consumers are price-sensitive and savvy. Bicester Village, a retail outlet located outside of London, has become the second-most visited attraction for tourists from China, just after Buckingham Place.
“Unlike many consumers in the UK who treat shopping as a regular hobby, Chinese shoppers have great incentives to buy if there is a discount, explaining the popularity of outlets. The price range at these shopping facilities satisfies their desire for designer brands at an affordable price.”
“Additionally, mall-based shopping allows Chinese consumers to access many brands in one place. Often, Chinese tourists will participate in group tours which involve visiting a convenient, large, premium shopping district.”
(Photos: London Business School, b. On Brand)