Author: Ken Gunn, 25 July 2017

With the summer slowdown getting underway, FSP has turned its attention to the UK tourist market this month.  The UK boasts some very impressive tourism statistics.  In 2015;

  • 36.1 million overseas visitors came to the UK
  • 124.4m overnight trips were made by domestic tourists
  • GB residents took a total of 1,525 million day visits

All of this adds up to spending of nearly £22bn on ‘special shopping’, which Visit Britain defines as ‘items which you do not regularly buy’.  Within the context of the retail industry, this accounts for c.15% of non -food sales, an attractive market when recognised that this is not accessible to digital competition.

Of course, tourism is not spread evenly across the country but given the variety of reasons for visiting plus the wide range of activities undertaken, there are few parts of the country that are not touched in some capacity.  A number of retail destinations such as London’s West End or Land Sec’s Gunwharf Quays already go out of their way to attract and shape tourist visits however, many shopping centres could be more proactive in their approach.


So what are the key elements of good practice?

Many centres rightly focus on their fashion line up but a significant proportion of spending is also directed towards personal and convenience goods.  Successful tourist ‘destinations’ are closely integrated within local tourism circuits and often have strong F&B provision, complementary leisure activities, coach driver facilities, year round events, shuttle buses (to hotels / local railway stations), strong  marketing at key points of entry / places of stay, website information on nearby attractions and packaged deals with local hotels and attractions.

According to the ONS, shopping is the 4th most popular activity for UK residents (after watching TV, spending time with friends / family and listening to music).  With many shoppers therefore intending to visit our shopping malls to have fun, perhaps it is time to deliver a more comprehensive and better curated visitor experience.

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