Tourist shopping spend down as Russians, Chinese rein back

Tourists walk near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Aug 12, 2014. Spending on tax free shopping at leading destinations dropped for the first time since 2009 in the second quarter, with spending by Russians down sharply due to the fall in the rouble
Tourists walk near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Aug 12, 2014. Spending on tax free shopping at leading destinations dropped for the first time since 2009 in the second quarter, with spending by Russians down sharply due to the fall in the rouble, according to a tourism shopping specialist. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (REUTERS) - Spending on tax free shopping at leading destinations dropped for the first time since 2009 in the second quarter, with spending by Russians down sharply due to the fall in the rouble, according to a tourism shopping specialist.

Between April and June total sales in France, Italy, Britain, Germany and Singapore - which together receive around three-quarters of total global spend by foreign customers - dropped 3 per cent by value, according to data from duty free shopping group Global Blue.

"The drops are not down to a reduction in tourist numbers, but a decrease in average spend per transaction," Global Blue said in a statement on Thursday.

Spending by Russians fell 18 per cent, it said, with the impact from the weak rouble being exacerbated by effects of the crisis in Ukraine. Russians account for approximately 20 per cent of all tax-free shopping worldwide, Global Blue said.

The spend by Chinese shoppers, which accounted for around 27 per cent of all tax free shopping last year and therefore the most spend of any nation on tax-free shopping whilst abroad, rose just 9 per cent in the quarter, compared with increases of between 30 and 50 per cent over recent years.

The worst hit destinations in the second quarter were France and Germany, with the total amount spent by foreigners on tax-free goods dropping 5.2 per cent and 4.5 per cent.

Fraport, the operator of Frankfurt airport, said last week that its retail operations were suffering as the strong euro puts shoppers off buying luxury perfumes, cosmetics and clothes at the airport.