Inbound shopping research

Shopping is one of the most popular activities for overseas visitors to Britain, with at least 57% of all visits involving shopping in 2014 (increasing to around 70% amongst leisure visitors).

Given the importance of shopping to inbound tourism (PDF, 660KB) we have complied a report looking at the volume and value of shopping and explore the markets most likely to say they shopped in Britian.  Published February 2013. Find out how many visitors from overseas undertook particular activites including shopping. 

Where in Britain overseas visitors shop

In 2014, around 22 million visits included visiting a shop, with just over 0.3 million trips mainly for personal shopping. 

To discover which types of shops are particularly popular with our overseas visitors we sponsored a question on the International Passenger Survey (IPS). 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. Department stores, outlet villages and luxury / designer shops are the second most popular shopping venue (visited by 26%).  While gift or souvenir shops were visited by 19%, and are particularly popular with holiday and study visitors seeking a trip memento.

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

In 2013, we 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 37.5%
Personal accessories 8.8%
Bags, purses 8.8%
Cosmetics or toiletries 11.4%
Books or stationery 11.5%
Games, toys or gifts for children 8.5%
Food or drink 21.7%
CDs, DVDs, computer games 4.8%
Electrical or electronic items 2.6%
Items for your home 2.8%
Other holiday souvenir 14.1%
None of these 34.3%