About us

International retail is the sector of the retail industry that makes sales to visitors to the UK from abroad. Many of the goods purchased are subsequently exported when those visitors leave the UK.

Launched in March 2020, AIR works together with businesses, organisations and Government to ensure that the policy and economic environment allows international retail in the UK to realise its full growth potential.

Our aim is to help retailers throughout the UK enhance their sales to international visitors. AIR’s focus is on communicating the importance to sector, identifying and promoting policy changes that will help drive growth and providing market and international competitor research.

Please click here to read the latest update from Jace Tyrrell, Chairman of AIR.

AIR Survey

The Future of Britain’s International Retail Sector

AIR is keen to learn your thoughts on the future growth of the international retail sector in the UK and what you think should be our Association’s policy priorities over the next few years. These will be used to inform the Board as it explores and agrees our future programme of activities.

Please feel free to make any comments and suggestions you wish.

All individual responses will be anonymous and confidential.  We will use some of the combined results to support and promote our activities with decision makers, opinion formers and the media.

AIR's COVID-19 response

From the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, AIR has been representing to Government the interests of international retail to ensure the strongest possible recovery when visitors start to return.

With international visitor numbers unlikely to start growing until at least the second half of 2021 AIR will work with partners to promote enhanced marketing activities and reducing regulatory barriers, such as the visa application systems in key markets.

The AIR Chairman and Chief Executive sit on the Government’s Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group (TIER) and our Chairman is on regular COVID-19 meetings with the Business Secretary and Retail Minister.

As the pandemic developed the situation changed and AIR’s responses have reflected those changes.

The deteriorating diplomatic relationship with China has required an approach which supports continuing Chinese tourism but recognises, in parallel, the need to enhance activities to attract high spending shoppers from other countries.

You can read more about AIR’s earlier activities in response to COVID-19 here.

Tax-free shopping (VAT RES and ESC)


AIR has been at the heart of the campaign to oppose the Government’s decision to end tax free shopping which will cost UK retailers up to £1.5 billion in lost sales annually, lead to around 40,00 redundancies across the UK, over and above any COVID-19 job losses, and is likely to result in a net loss of VAT income for the Treasury.

You can see more about the campaign to date and future plans here.
You can see some selected media coverage here.
You can see key documents here.

For further information on the campaign and how you can help, contact Paul Barnes, Chief Executive, AIR, on 07969111619
or at paul@internationalretail.co.uk

   Please click here to read a statement from Paul Barnes, CEO of AIR on Chancellor Rishi Sunak's 2021 Budget.

In the News

Below are the latest media reports related to AIR.

International Press

Tax-Free Sales, The Traveler Experience, And The Airport Financial Model




Paul Barnes CEO of the Association of International Retail (AIR) tells Forbes.com: “Tax-free sales, apart from in Hainan, are virtually zero across the world right now because there is not much international travel due to the pandemic. When travel resumes, high spenders who travel a lot will choose to shop in Paris or Milan and skip Britain for shopping, even if they come here. They may also spend less time in the country.” That will mean lost revenue to the wider hospitality industry.

High-rolling travelers spend disproportionately more on tax-free shopping. In 2019, 13% of them accounted for 42% of all tax-free shopping in Britain and the top 1% account for 20% of it. That elite group splash out an average £60,000 each year according to AIR and their average £12,000 tax refund will be a major motivator in their choice of destination.

Read the full article here.

National Press

Dixons Carphone shuts airport stores following axing of duty-free shopping

Evening Standard
Electricals retailer Dixons Carphone has decided to close its airport stores business, just months after a scheme allowing VAT-free shopping for overseas tourists was scrapped.

The stores will be the first major casualty of the post-Brexit “tourist tax”, which was bitterly fought by retailers, hospitality and other tourism-dependent businesses.

Paul Barnes, chief executive of the Association of International Retail, said: “Ending tax free shopping puts over £3 billion of international visitor spend at risk each year as high-spending travellers divert their shopping to Paris or Milan.”

A judicial review of the duty free decision by the Treasury is expected to come up with a ruling soon, possibly as early as this week.


Read the full article here.

Regional Press

VAT change ‘will cost Edinburgh £90m’ and could affect 1800 jobs

The National

Paul Barnes: “The Government’s decision to eradicate tax free shopping in the UK will impact Britain’s reputation and appeal as a global shopping destination, providing further damage to our struggling economy. Outside of London, Edinburgh is a key tourist attraction for visitors, proven in the growing number of international flights to Edinburgh airport. The removal of tax free shopping will not only impact the cities retail sector but be a huge blow for hotels and restaurants who are reliant on international visitors”.

Read the full article here.

Trade Media

Retail’s 3 R’s: Reopening, Recovery, Resilience

DRD Partnership

Ahead of the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday, DRD Partner and Chief Executive of the Association for International Retail (AIR), Paul Barnes, shares his insight about what’s in store for the retail and hospitality sectors in the coming weeks and months.  

Read the full article here.

To view all media reports please click here.