Research & insights


Over time AIR will commission research to support the growth of the international retail sector on issues such as:

  • The size, shape and spread of Britain’s international retail sector and its key issues
  • International markets and marketing
  • International competitor analysis
  • Investment and innovation – emerging trends
  • Store and international centre best practices
  • Detailed research to support policy campaigns

AIR will also be launching a quarterly insights product to inform supporters and policy makers of the current state of the sector.

On this page we have highlighted some key pieces of research of relevance to the international retail sector.

Timeline of Tax-Free shopping campaign

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.

AIR’s December 2020 Briefing

You can read the December briefing here.

AIR’s response to HMT’s Mythbuster Note

You can read AIR’s response to HMT’s Mythbuster Note here.

The Treasury’s Technical Note on VAT RES and airside tax-free shopping and AIR’s response.

You can see the Treasury’s Technical Note here,
and AIR’s response here.

AIR’s long briefing

You can read the long briefing here.

AIR short briefing

You can see AIR’s short briefing here.

AIR sends letter to the Chancellor

You can see the AIR letter to the Chancellor signed by 21 senior CEOs across the UK, arranged by AIR here.

Results of the international traveller consumer research and the key figures from the Cebr Economic Research

You can read these results here.

Cebr Economic Research.

Click here to read.

AIR Media Release: Chancellor’s tourist tax raid to cost UK £5.6bn

You can read AIR’s media release here.

AIR’s response to HMRC consultation on the future of tax free shopping

You can read this document here.

Research conducted regarding Tax-Free shopping

AIR's response to HMRC consultation on the future of tax free shopping. 
May 2020

You can read this document here.

Global Blue commissioned research into the economic impact of tax free shopping in the UK, suggesting that for every £1 the Government refunds it gains up to £1.90 in additional tax and savings.

You can read this report here.

Research Library

    AIR's response to HMRC consultation on the future of tax free shopping. 
    May 2020

    You can read this document here.

    Post-COVID-19 reopening guide for London's West End. May 2020.

    You can read this document here.

    AIR has created a detailed plan for 'COVID-19 support for businesses reliant or partly on international visitors'.

    You can read this document here.

    VisitBritain has compiled an extensive research document into the importance of shopping on inbound tourism. Although some years out of date, this comprehensive report is extremely informative for the sector at large.

    You can read this research here.

    VisitBritain commissioned detailed research by Kantar on high net worth travellers from China, USA and the Gulf. Their research aims to better understand those customers who account for the highest spends during trips to the UK.

    You can read this research here.

    United Nations World Tourism Organisation publish regular updates on global tourism. In 2020 they forecast a growth of 3% to 4% in international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2020. Their website is full of helpful resources for the international retail industry.

    You can read their publications here.

    Chinese tourists spend while overseas





    (Date source: COTRI)

    Walpole’s Economic Contribution to the UK, a 2019 report, offers excellent insight into the luxury retail industry. Walpole is the trade body for the British luxury retail sector.

    You can read this report here.

    London and Partners’ report on tourism to London from 2017 predicts a sharp rise in tourism to the capital by 2025. They predict tourism numbers will go from 19m in 2016 to over 40m in 2025.

    You can read this report here.

    The UK China Visa Alliance’s report looks at how the UK government can take practical steps to make it easier for Chinese people to get a UK and Schengen area visa. This would boost tourism and investment in the UK.

    You can read their report here

    Percentage of population who own a passport


    (Date source: Bain & Company)

    Bain & Company’s Luxury Study published in 2018 took a detailed look into the recent developments of the luxury goods industry globally. It highlights the growth of the Chinese tourism market, the younger consumer and changes to retail outlets globally.

    You can read this report here.

    Vistors to the UK


    Oct 18 - 19: (£24,520bn spend)


    Oct 17 - 18: (£22,770bn spend)


    Oct 16 - 17: (£24,460bn spend)


    Oct 15 - 16: (£21,840bn spend)


    Oct 14 - 15: (£21,730bn spend)

    (Date source: Office for National Statistics)

    Marketing Manchester works to promote Greater Manchester as a place to visit, invest, do business, and study. Their Review 2019 document is full of helpful insights alongside key facts and figures that demonstrate the importance of international tourism to the Greater Manchester economy.

    You can read this report here.

    The Tourism Alliance’s 2019 UK tourism statistics report is very helpful for anyone with an interest in the sector. Its full of easy-to-read facts and figures that demonstrate the importance of this sector to the UK economy.

    You can read this report here.

    The House of Commons Library have produced their research summary of the UK inbound and outbound tourism industry. They have pulled together lots of important research from a wide variety of sources.

    You can read this report here.

    Most popular shopping destinations for super rich tourists


    (Date source: Bain & Company)

    AIR's 2020 'Post-coronavirus retail recovery plan' is a detailed response to the current outbreak, and highlights 5 points to encourage Chinese visitors back to the UK once the virus has been beaten.

    You can read this report here.

    Oliver Wyman consultants have released a fascinating report on the changing preferences of Chinese tourists.

    You can read this report here.

    Global Blue commissioned research into the economic impact of tax free shopping in the UK, suggesting that for every £1 the Government refunds it gains up to £1.90 in additional tax and savings.

    You can read this report here.

    Media coverage of AIR's tax free shopping campaign

    Ending VAT-free shopping 'will hit UK tourism and retail'

    Source: BBC News

    Chancellor warned scrapping tax-free shopping risks 70,000 jobs

    Source: The Guardian

    Rishi Sunak faces backlash from retail giants including Selfridges, Harrods and Marks & Spencer over plans to axe tax-free shopping that ‘will drive foreign shoppers to Paris’

    Source: The Mail on Sunday

    Scrapping VAT relief for international visitors will have ‘untold impact’ on Greater Manchester economy, industry leaders warn

    Source: Business Live

    News on AIR's COVID-19 support

    The Chancellor has announced an extension to the furlough scheme until October and more flexibility and some employer contribution from August

    Click here to read

    In response to this, Paul Barnes, CEO of The Association of International Retail said: “Covid-19 is financially impacting many sectors, but none more so – and none will suffer for as long – as those dependent on international visitors.  We are pleased that our campaign for greater flexibility around part-time furloughing has been successful so far, but we’re concerned that the Government’s support may stop abruptly in October, before overseas visitors return in meaningful numbers.  Cutting the cord too soon will not just be catastrophic for retailers, theatres, hotels and their associated businesses – its cumulative effect will risk London and the UK’s position as a leading global destination.  We await further detail later this month and will continue to campaign for the support needed by the international retail sector, otherwise we risk seeing some of our historic businesses shutting up shop for good.”

    AIR Briefing: Continuing business support for companies with significant sales to international visitors

    Nickie Aiken MP's letter to UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP

    Tory MP calls on government to extend job retention scheme

    Source: City A.M

    Click here to read

    Pre-lockdown COVID-19 response

    Now updated and incorporated in the AIR, New West End Company and Walpole International Retail Campaign

    Click here to read

    Tourist organisation links


    The official tourism website for Great Britain.


    The Tourism Alliance works to promote all businesses involved in the delivery of tourism, particularly in England.


    The leading hospitality trade association in the UK.


    London’s international trade, investment and promotion agency.


    The official visitors’ website to London.


    The official tourist board for Manchester and Greater Manchester.


    The official tourist board for Edinburgh.


     The trade association representing inboard tourism.


    Marketing Manchester is the agency charged with promoting Greater Manchester on the national and international stage.


    The UN agency promoting ethical, sustainable and accessible tourism.

    Retail organisation links


    The trade association for independent retailers.


    The trade association for all UK retailers.


    The membership body representing 190,000 British businesses.


    Revo supports the people and businesses involved in the diverse world of retail property.


    The official sector body for over 250 of the UK's finest luxury brands.


    New West End Company is a business partnership of 600 UK & international retailers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and property owners in the world's top shopping and leisure destination, anchored by Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street.