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Tourism rise sparks new calls for return of tax-free shopping

Shutterstock/Vladyslav Starozhylov

A rise in tourism has sparked new calls for the government to u-turn on its decision to remove tax-free shopping for overseas customers.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said the government must take advantage of the summer surge by “reintroducing VAT relief for overseas visitors to boost the UK’s attractiveness compared with other destinations and stimulate spending”.

It comes as data by the trade association found that footfall in high streets and major cities were up “thanks to an increase in international tourism”.

Latest figures from the BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor show high street footfall inched up 0.6% in June, with footfall in London also up 0.6% year-on-year.


“Shopping patterns are still finding a new balance, as the high cost of living is affecting people’s habits and choices,” said Dickinson.

“We saw fewer visits to shopping centres and retail parks than last year. But high street locations were busier and footfall in major cities also improved, thanks to an increase in international tourism.”

Tax-free shopping for overseas visitors was scrapped after Brexit and since then, bosses from luxury retailers have warned it has been pushing spending towards other fashion capitals in Europe.

The change resulted in Mulberry closing the doors to its Bond Street store earlier this year.

A spokesman from the luxury fashion retailer said at the time: “The lack of VAT-free shopping in the UK has been particularly felt on Bond Street, which has always been an iconic shopping destination for tourists. The decline in visitors has impacted footfall and sales.”


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