Paul Smith says ‘tourist tax’ has dented his UK store sales

blog image

 Renowned designer Sir Paul Smith, a respected figure in the retail industry, is among many who have voiced their concerns about the effects of the UK’s decision to no longer allow tax-free shopping to visitors following Brexit. Smith’s credibility lends weight to his claim that this policy change, commonly known as the “tourist tax,” has discouraged shoppers from outside the EU from visiting the UK.


Smith’s interview with The Times brought to light the global repercussions of the UK’s policy change. He revealed a staggering 47% decline in business from outside the EU to his 17 UK outlets since 2019. This significant downturn has not only affected his company but also the UK’s appeal as a vacation spot for visitors from important markets like Japan, Korea, and China, who no longer see the UK as an attractive destination due to the lack of tax-free shopping.



Smith highlighted how this downturn is affecting businesses in all sectors, not just high-end shops. It’s affecting cafes, restaurants, and hotels as well. This diversity of businesses affected underscores the wide-ranging consequences of the UK’s policy change, highlighting the government’s misunderstanding of the larger economic consequences.


Retailers and trade groups have voiced their opposition to the plan to end tax-free shopping, arguing that it benefits more than just the wealthy. Studies suggest that retaining VAT could generate more revenue than its removal. Furthermore, data from Global Blue indicates that the absence of tax-free shopping has led overseas shoppers to redirect their spending to other EU countries, potentially depriving the UK of significant economic benefits.


Reports indicate a comeback in tourism across Europedespite the pandemic’s early impact on trips. This further highlights how the UK’s tax-free shopping regime has diminished its appeal as a shopping destination. Tourist spending in UK retailers fell significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Association of International Retail (AIR), in contrast to the spike seen in France, Italy, and Spain.


The retail sector and the economy as a whole in the UK are still debating the effects of tax-free shopping, with business voices requesting that the government reevaluate its position. In a cutthroat global market, where travelers from all over the world are looking for ways to save money and have fun, the United Kingdom must take smart steps to increase its attractiveness.

Ethan Sullivan

Ethan's penchant for the pulse of the fashion world extends to covering lifestyle topics, offering readers a seamless blend of the latest style updates and lifestyle trends.

Read more