With only two weeks left before Christmas 2012, London has never looked more festive. Oxford Street and Regent Street are beautifully lit up with a mass of Christmas lights and department stores such as Selfridges and Harrods have adorned their floors with festive decorations and put on their best holiday window displays.
London has always been seen as the top shopping capital city in the world, rivalling Tokyo, New York and Paris. With an annual sales figure of £64.2 billion in 2011 and a further increase predicted in 2012, we can expect this holiday season in London to be the busiest to date.
It is not hard to understand London's attraction as a shopping destination. The UK's capital boasts the largest selection of major global retailers, with Kelkoo research finding 138 of the world's 250 leading retail brands present on London's high streets in 2011. The research also shows that Londoners are the biggest fashion shoppers, spending 45% more than consumers in the more traditional fashion capital of Paris and 59% more than New Yorkers, which contributes in part to the great sense of style seen on the streets of London.
Here at Gherson we also see an increase in international applicants who wish to come to the UK for shopping and holiday purposes. International shoppers, particularly those from countries in East Asia such as China and Japan, are drawn to London by the prices of luxurious designer brands, which are relatively cheap by comparison with those in their home countries, as well as the option of tax-free shopping.
With VAT currently at 20% in the UK, the duty free option has indeed made shopping in London more appealing than comparable destinations like New York. According to Global Blue, Chinese shoppers now spend an average of £642 per transaction in the UK, up from £612 last year. In London, the average transaction is £1,030. The UK's luxury brands, in particular, draw in Chinese visitors and many stores are doing more to cater for them. Harrods reported a 40% rise in sales to Chinese customers after introducing card readers that accepted China's only domestic debit and credit card, UnionPay. Both Harrods and Selfridges have employed Mandarin-speaking staff, while Westfield has been giving Chinese visitors VIP passes offering 25% discounts in the shops and restaurants in its shopping centres.
Gherson not only has unrivalled expertise in immigration matters for those wishing to visit the UK over the festive period, but also, through its sister firm Discreet Law, is able to advise on wider legal issues for those seeking to conduct other business in the UK.