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.
⇒ To read our latest update, please click 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 40,000 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.
⇒ Please click here to read a statement from Paul Barnes, CEO of AIR on Chancellor Rishi Sunak's 2021 Budget.
⇒ Please click here to read the AIR Statement about Tax-Free Shopping Judicial Review.
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 visitors now starting to return, 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.
⇒ You can read more about AIR’s earlier activities in response to COVID-19 here.
AIR recently met with the Immigration Minister, Kevin Foster MP, Retail Minister Paul Scully MP, Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston MP, and Nickie Aiken MP yesterday, alongside the UAE Ambassador His Excellency Mansoor Abulhoul, Heathrow and the UK Border Force.
The meeting focused on progressing AIR’s three priority campaigns, including enhancing visa regime for visitors from high spending regions such as the GCC states and China, exempting the West End and Knightsbridge from Sunday trading regulations and re-examining the decision to end tax free shopping.
This would be a huge boost to UK retail and tourism businesses and the wider UK economy in the post pandemic recovery.
With the return of international travel, it’s time for Government and industry to work together to make the UK the world’s go-to shopping destination for international visitors.