Inbound shopping research

Shopping is one of the most popular activities for overseas visitors to Britain, with at least 64% of all visits involving shopping in 2014 (increasing to around 82% amongst leisure visitors).

Around 22 million visits included shopping in 2014, with just over 0.3 million trips were mainly for personal shopping. These visits involve an average spend per night of £346, four times more than the average spend per night across all visits.

Estimated spend on shopping by overseas visitors (£m)

Red and blue pie chart displaying estimated spend £5,462  on shopping by overseas visitors

The most recent data available indicates that 25% of all expenditure by overseas visitors was on shopping, as shown in the chart. On this basis we can estimate that in 2014, £5.5 billion of the total £21.8 billion spent by overseas visitors in the UK would have been spent on shopping.

Find out how many visitors from overseas undertook particular activities in 2011, including shopping. And read our article on the importance of shopping as a motivator (PDF, 660KB) for inbound tourism to Britain and the ways in which visitors are most likely to engage in a spot of retail therapy during their stay for further insights. Published February 2013

Where in Britain overseas visitors shop

Every year we add extra questions to the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey to help us better understand the needs and characteristics of overseas visitors to Britain.

To discover which types of shops are particularly popular with our overseas visitors we sponsored a question on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) during 2014. Departing visitors were asked if they had visited four different types of shops during their visit to the UK.

Half of visits include shopping on the High Street / at a shopping centre. These were commonly frequented by personal shopping, study, holiday and VFR visitors. Women are markedly more likely than men to visit these types of shop (61% compared to 42%).

Department stores, outlet villages and luxury / designer shops are the second most popular shopping venue (visited by 26%). Personal shopping and holiday visitors are most likely to visit these types of shop. Visitors from the Gulf have a very high propensity to visits this type of shop.

Gift or souvenir shops were visited by 19%, and are particularly popular with holiday and study visitors seeking a trip memento, and are more common amongst young people.

Visitors who went to any of the types of shops explored in this research spent an average of £739 during their trip compared to £414 by those who did not – around 80% more. This rises to £960 per visit for those who included shopping at an outlet, department store or shop selling luxury / designer goods.

Download the full report on where overseas visitors shop (PDF, 2.41MB). Published August 2015

What inbound visitors shop for in Britain

One of the questions that we added during 2013 focused on what inbound visitors bought while shopping during their stay. This table presents the proportion of visits that included purchasing the items that were asked about, showing that the most common purchase was of clothes or shoes, with just more than two-in-five buying these items during their trip.

Propensity to purchase items (%)

Items purchased %
Clothes or shoes 40.7%
Personal accessories 9.5%
Bags, purses 9.2%
Cosmetics or toiletries 12.3%
Books or stationery 12.5%
Games, toys or gifts for children 9.3%
Food or drink 24.0%
CDs, DVDs, computer games 5.3%
Electrical or electronic items 2.8%
Items for your home 3.0%
Other holiday souvenir 15.6%
None of these 37.7%


Read more about the types of items that inbound visitors to Britain purchased during 2013 (PDF, 2.33MB), including 'clothes and shoes' and 'toys and games'. Published July 2014

Take a look at our report on the products and services visitors purchase before and during their trip (PDF, 1.7MB). Published May 2013

Find out about perceptions of price and value of a variety of aspects of trip to Britain, including transportation, compared with France and Italy – either download the research (PDF, 2.67MB) we commissioned or read our analysis (PDF, 4.29MB). Published October 2012.