Chinese tourists are set to deliver a major boost to the region's retailers in the run-up to Christmas

  • More than 22,000 Chinese passengers set to visit the region this December
  • Department stores across the North West are predicting a retail boom (case studies below)
  • Shoppers also descending on the region for football fixtures and Christmas markets
  • Mandarin and cultural classes given to shop floor staff to welcome visitors from the Far East

Tills will be ringing across the North West, with more than twenty-two thousand Far East visitors due to jet in on direct flights from both Beijing and Hong Kong during December.

Retailers say they are bracing themselves for their highest sales volumes from Chinese tourists, who are also attracted to the North by high profile Premier League fixtures (including the Manchester derby) and the Christmas Markets.

And in preparation, stores have been training staff in Mandarin and creating special sales promotions.

Clara Kwan and Jeff Tong, 36, arrived at Manchester Airport on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong this week. The couple are visiting the UK on their honeymoon and said that thanks to a direct service, they have decided to spend four days in the North West before heading to London

During that time, they will take in a Liverpool fixture, as well as visiting the region’s designer stores.

Clara said: “We are here on honeymoon and because there is a direct flight, we decided to do three or four days in Manchester, before going on to London. It means we can go to a Liverpool game and, of course, do plenty of shopping in the North West.”

From 1st December Cathay Pacific will be increase its direct service to Hong Kong to a daily flight. During the winter months Hainan Airlines operate a three-a-week service direct to Beijing, which goes daily during the summer months.

The anticipated boost comes after a pioneering report revealed that the Far East connections are delivering a significant economic reward, or ‘China Dividend’, to the Northern Powerhouse.

The study, on the Beijing route’s one year of service, is the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken into the economic and social impact of a brand new direct, long haul route between two countries. It has revealed that the Manchester-Beijing air route has driven a significant increase in exports, inward investment, and international student numbers into the North.

Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport, said: “The new Beijing route from Manchester is the perfect demonstration of how direct long-haul flights bring significant benefits to the whole of the North by connecting it directly to the world economy.

“The China Dividend report revealed that the new route has delivered a huge boost to the visitor economy in the North, with thousands of visitors arriving into Manchester Airport every month.

“We know the region has an array of excellent retail centres, coupled with world class sporting and cultural attractions, and they are certainly proving popular with the Chinese passengers travelling on our two direct services.”

At Manchester Airport, staff have also been trained in Mandarin as part of the airport’s onsite education academy. Since 2015 201 people have taken the course, which trains in Mandarin plus Chinese etiquette and culture. This year alone 47 course participants have found employment within the airport.

Chinese passengers take advantage of the Travelex VAT refund service available at Manchester Airport. Travelex estimates that it has completed 12,500 VAT transactions in the period between January - October 2017 at Manchester Airport.

Graham Brady, MP, said: “This route has stimulated huge demand for travel between China and the UK and in doing so has delivered a wide range of benefits to the Northern economy, including significantly increasing exports, inward investment and tourism.

“The scale of impact clearly illustrates just how beneficial having strong links with high growth markets can be and why Government should be doing everything it can to further improve connectivity between the North and the world.”

Retail Case Studies:

McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Cheshire Oaks

  • Chinese Group visitors +57% (Jan-Oct 2017 vs 2016)
  • Chinese Tax-Free Sales +26% (Jan-Sep 2017 vs 2016)
  • 2017 will be another year of record tax-free sales for McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks
  • McArthurGlen Group’s Sales and Marketing team in China work closely with international travel trade and industry partners to ensure that McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks and Manchester are included in their itineraries when travelling to the UK
  • On average, groups spend over three hours at the centre
  • McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks is home to over 145 international high street, premium and designer brands
  • The centre offers in-centre tax-free refunds
  • Multi-lingual collateral is available at the centre and many of the stores employ multi-lingual staff to provide the most enjoyable customer experience
  • For key cultural events such as Chinese New Year and Golden Week, McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks’ brand partners produce limited edition product and offer additional discounts and in-store events to celebrate

Kenny Murray, Centre Manager, McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Cheshire Oaks, said:

“Chinese visitors account for around 50% of all tax-free sales and have an average transaction value of £210. For the past 12 rolling months, tax-free sales have increased by 35% and by 195% in the last four years. We have also welcomed three additional familiarization trips, facilitated by the direct flights.”


Jane Sharrocks, General Manager Selfridges Manchester, said:

“We’ve enjoyed continued positive growth in sales from our overseas customers for a number of years, especially from our Chinese customers. However the weakening of the sterling and the opening of new direct routes between Manchester and Beijing have both had an accelerating effect on sales.”

Harvey Nichols, Manchester

  • Harvey Nichols Manchester has Mandarin and Cantonese speaking personnel in all areas of the store. 25% of its fashion sales team speak Mandarin or Cantonese.
  • Year to date it has seen an increase of +36% in Chinese tax free transactions vs LY and +29% in Hong Kong transactions vs LY
  • Chinese tourists are buying:
    • Fashion & Accessories
      • Kenzo
      • Balenciaga
      • Gucci
      • Acne
      • Canada Goose
    • Beauty
      • La Mer
      • Sisley
      • Hourglass
    • Food, Wine , Hospitality
      • Fine wines and whisky
      • Afternoon Tea at the Second Floor Bar and Brasserie
  • Specialist services are available in store to ensure a seamless shopping experience for international shoppers:
    • Mandarin and Cantonese speaking Style Advisors and instore Stylists
    • Tax Free shopping
    • China Union Pay terminals
    • Alipay, with mandarin translated signage
    • Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)
    • Direct export to an eligible overseas address (deliver directly to an eligible address in China with tax free applied at point of sale)
    • WeChat (WeChat Pay coming soon)

Iain Mackenzie, Store Director Harvey Nichols Manchester, said:

“Harvey Nichols is a destination for the International customer who is looking for the whole experience, from the best edit of the most exclusive handpicked products, to our exciting hospitality offer, a tailored service proposition and bespoke in store events.”

intu Trafford Centre

  • Global Blue figures show that Chinese shoppers account for 38% of tax free spend at intu Trafford Centre and average spend is +10% on last year
  • intu Trafford Centre gained Visit Britain’s GREAT China Welcome accreditation in 2014, and were one of the first attractions in Manchester to do so
  • It accepts China Union Pay – if a store / restaurant doesn’t accept China Union Pay, the visitor can buy an intu Gift Card for the relevant amount and make the purchase in that way
  • A Chinese centre guide is available to help Chinese shoppers find their way around more easily
  • Customer Service staff are also China Welcome trained

Alison Niven, regional centre director at intu Trafford Centre, said:

“We know that Chinese shoppers account for more than a third of the centre’s tax-free sales – more than any other visiting shoppers. With the boom in Chinese visitors in the city we’re gearing up for the biggest Christmas period for tax-free shopping the centre has ever had.

“We have over 200 brands under one roof at intu Trafford Centre so are well placed to make the most of the international shopper opportunity. Our aim is to make our customers smile, in turn helping our retailers flourish. We were one of the first attractions in Manchester to gain Visit Britain’s GREAT China Welcome opportunity in 2014 and Chinese shoppers will find Chinese promotional literature and centre guides as well as Mandarin speakers across the centre to help them enjoy their visit.

“If a store doesn’t accept China Union Pay – Chinese shoppers can visit the gift card kiosk, purchase an intu Gift Card for the relevant amount and make the purchase that way.

“As international shoppers increase, so do the volume of our stores which are adapting to cater for them - it’s no longer just the designer and luxury concessions within Selfridges and John Lewis. New stores such as Breitling, Michael Kors and even the new flagship high street retailers such as Zara and Topshop are ready to welcome Chinese shoppers making tax-free purchases and make the purchase process as easy as possible.”