London’s West End is preparing for a‘gold rush’, with more than 140,000 visitors from the Middle East expected to spend an estimated £250m between July and September, according to the New West End company.
It said the estimated spend would reflect an uplift of 11% year-on-year and said: ‘As the Euro shoppers market softens, retailers in London’s West End are preparing to welcome the boom in visitors from key Middle East markets, the United Arab Emirates – including Abu Dhabi and Dubai – Saudi Arabia and Egypt over the next five weeks, in advance of Ramadan.’
The Middle East market accounted for 32% of tourist sales in the West End in July and August last year and Middles Eastern sales are already up 50% year-on-year to date.
According to New West End Company data, the average American shopper in London’s West End will spend on average 60% less than a visitor from Saudi Arabia.
The New West End Company has launched a major marketing campaign to target affluent Middle East shoppers.
Stores including Selfridges and Boots will extend their opening hours during the summer months and run special offers and promotions.
Jace Tyrell, who heads the New West End Company, said: ‘Stores are pulling out all the stops this summer to really ensure that these significant spenders’ needs are provided for, giving high end fashion brands and luxury goods – which are most in demand – maximum shop floor exposure.
'Many visitors from the Middle East choose to travel in groups so some retailers will be widening the aisles in-store, creating extra space for parties of shoppers, and hoteliers are reporting up to 30% of their rooms are booked out by this market. Visitors from the Middle East are passionate about shopping and will shop throughout their entire stay, not just for one day.
‘Shoppers from the Middle East often buy in large transaction sizes – one retailer recently reported a customer from Abu Dhabi ordered £30,000 worth of furniture, requesting that the items be sent directly to the UAE.
'The Middle East market appreciates excellent hospitality and as well as bringing a boost to the retail industry, the leisure and hospitality sector will also reap the rewards of the five week, pre-Ramadan gold rush.’
Noel Saunders, managing director at John Lewis Oxford Street, said: ‘The Middle Eastern countries continue be to our biggest international customers, accounting for 35.5% of the sales at John Lewis Oxford Street.
'Countries include Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and for the first time this year we have seen an increase in Libyan shoppers.’
200m visitors travel into the West End each year. Of these visitors 25% are from overseas and a further 21% are from outside of London.