We're only here for the deals
From Middle Eastern royalty to Mongolian students, retail tourists are coming to London to spend, spend, spend. Rob Hastings hit the high street in search of bargain hunters
Thursday 29 December 2011
We met Mr Alrased as he was loading his boss's Porsche with six huge bags of goods from Selfridges. Meanwhile the man himself – a businessman who Mr Alrased would only describe as Mr Ali from Dubai – was still in the shop buying more.
London is one of the most popular shopping destinations for the Middle East's royalty and noveau riche. But while some choose quieter times of the year, Mr Alrased said his employer enjoyed shopping in Harrods and Selfridges during the busy festive season. He told us that while Paris was "all right" for shopping, London was definitely "the best" in the world.
Shopping on holiday from her native Indonesia with her 18-year-old sister Madelaine, Estelita Ligatsa said she had previously studied in London and had made sure to come back because the city was a "one-stop shop" for all her favourite fashion brands.
Standing outside a department store window full of Louis Vuitton bags, the 25-year-old was just a few hours into a planned five full days of shopping during her two-week stay. She had carefully planned routes for each day of her spree, beginning with Oxford Street and Regent Street, before moving further west later in the week.
Jimmy Choo shoes were top of her wish list, along with plenty of bags and make-up. The cheaper High Street fashion brands were a big attraction too. Miss Ligatsa said that with no Topshop or Dorothy Perkins back home, the clothes from these stores could be just as enticing as the more expensive designer items.
She added that receiving a VAT refund was a major incentive for foreign shoppers, and that even before any tax reductions, European brands were cheaper here than the imports back home.
It might seem hard to believe for those who feel like they will be squashed to death in the merciless throng, but Adrian Prambudi said he preferred shopping in the British capital to Paris because the stores here are a "bit less packed".
Midway through a media degree at a London university, Mr Prambudi said the shops in the capital were an important factor in his decision to study in Britain. He was therefore unsurprised to have noticed that many fellow shoppers were also from overseas, descending on London purely for sales season.
Mr Prambudi was a little less impressed with the weather, saying he generally preferred to shop in the summer. Even with few specific targets to buy, however, he said the bargains in clothes and shoes on offer were still enough to get him looking around.
The student from Ulan Bator confessed to being something of a fiend for designer clothing, and said that for many years she had bought all her clothes from abroad as there were no shops worth buying from in the Mongolian capital.
Bayarama Ts' only purchase when we met her was a shirt by the Italian fashion house Max Mara, bought in Harrods. But noting a little sadly that its Chanel sale was not due to begin until 5 January, she was already lining up a return trip to buy a £440 pair of small heeled-shoes.
She felt that the bargains were not as good as some people made out, but she nevertheless much preferred buying to merely window shopping.
Among the other labels that she was keen to purchase were Gucci and All Saints.
Having travelled over to visit his uncle for Christmas, Umam Rafique admitted that the festive sales were also a major attraction to spending some time with his relatives in Britain – indeed, he was already on his third solid day of shopping.
Braving the crowds was something he said was fine as long as he took a little time to prepare himself for the pavement battles every morning. The Boxing Day crush had proved too much even for him, however.
The huge choice of footwear styles available were the main draw for the 20-year-old student, who said he was hoping to get a good pair of Puma trainers.
Price was not so important, however, as he was also looking for a pair of Adidas shoes despite the fact that German brands are generally more expensive here.
Though among a group of Chinese journalists visiting the UK primarily to write about English football clubs, Mr Liang's bundle of plastic bags betrayed another passion. He and his friends were taking back plenty of presents for their friends and family, despite being unsure how they would fit them all on the return flight. Brands such as G-Star and Diesel were the prime targets in the clothes departments, but Topman is also growing in popularity with the Chinese, having just opened a store in Beijing.
He was keen to combine shopping and football, however, enquiring how to get to White Hart Lane to make some purchases in the megastore at Tottenham Hotspur.
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