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Annual Sales From Tax Free Shopping in Leeds Grows by One Quarter


Industry statistics released today reveal a sharp increase in the number of retail purchases from overseas visitors in Leeds, with annual sales from tax free shopping growing by 26.7% year-on-year for the month ended December 2016.


Figures from Premier Tax Free, which manages tourist VAT refunds in over 30 countries around the world, showed tourists from China dominating the spend with 23.7% of all tax free sales in the city last year.


Behind China, Middle Eastern countries made up the rest of the top five in terms of volume of total tax free sales, headed by Kuwait (9.8%), Saudi Arabia (5.5%), Qatar (4.8%) and the United Arab Emirates (4.7%).


Sales from more than 200 stores across the city were analysed by Premier Tax Free, including Trinity Leeds which became a fully tax free shopping centre last year.


Sales from Malaysian visitors to Leeds showed the biggest growth, up 134% year-on-year.


Countries in the Middle East experienced significant growth in 2016 with the United Arab Emirates (76%), Saudi Arabia (47.9%) and Kuwait (38.4%) leading the way.


It is thought that the increase in the total number of tax free shoppers – which grew a huge 34.6% in 2016 – is in part due to the increase in both the number, and capacity, of flights from the Middle East to Manchester, as well as the availability of connections from Leeds Bradford airport to the Middle East.


David Maddison, General Manager at Trinity Leeds, which became a fully tax free shopping destination last year, said: “The post-Brexit trend continues in that the UK is a more attractive shopping destination for overseas visitors who are literally getting more bang for their buck, euro, dinar, dirham and yuan.

“Tax free is becoming an increasingly important part of our business and in the last quarter of 2016 we became a fully tax free shopping destination.

“Leeds rightly counts itself as a cosmopolitan city and as our international tourists, businesses and students continues to grow, so will the investment into the area.

“The Grand Départ and the Rugby World Cup has put Yorkshire in the international spotlight and there will be more to come with the likes of the cycling Road World Championships in 2019 and the bid for Leeds to become European Capital of Culture 2023.”


The positive trend is backed by VisitLeeds which last year released figures from STEAM – which measures the economic impact of the tourism industry – showing the city enjoyed 26.21 million tourism visits in 2015, a 5.3% increase from 2013. The visitor economy sector is growing at an impressive rate with day visitors up by 4.7% and overnight stays increasing by 12.5%.


Jennifer Young, Head of VisitLeeds, said: “As the STEAM results illustrated, Leeds is a top class European city break destination. Our recent and planned campaign and sales missions include China and the USA and the development of tax free shopping is a crucial element for both of these markets. With regular direct flights from Beijing into Manchester airport and good connectivity from Leeds via Schipol, the China market continues to grow and our work with other key destinations in the North of England including Manchester, York and the Lake District means that Leeds is on the map as a must see city to visit. And tax free shopping is hugely important to this market so it’s great to see Trinity Leeds supporting our visitor offer.”


Top Ten Nationalities for Tax Free Sales in Leeds for 2016

Country % of total sales
China 23.7 %
Kuwait 9.8 %
Saudi Arabia 5.5 %
Qatar 4.8 %
United Arab Emirates 4.7 %
United States 4.5 %
Australia 3.2 %
Hong Kong 2.6 %
Malaysia 2.0 %
Bahrain 1.7 %
Others 37.6 %


Top Ten Nationalities for Tax Free Sales Growth in Leeds for 2016

Country % increase in
year-on-year sales
Malaysia 134.20%
United Arab Emirates 76.00%
Saudi Arabia 47.90%
Kuwait 38.40%
China 27.50%
Hong Kong 20.00%
Bahrain 18.30%
Australia 9.90%
United States -4.10%
Qatar -19.30%


Trinity Leeds launch night