It seems almost unimaginable now, but just over a decade ago the British Pound bought almost two American dollars. Great news for UK travellers crossing the pond, but for North Americans heading to the UK, the picture wasn’t quite so rosy. Fast forward to today, and for anyone earning dollars, shopping in London is significantly cheaper than in previous years: $1 buys £0.81, compared to just £0.70 two years ago. Another money-saving opportunity many travellers don’t take advantage of is claiming back UK sales tax (known as VAT) on their departure – that’s an additional saving of 20% on top of the favourable exchange rate.
A recent report from Deloitte reported that the “U.K. is fast becoming the most affordable luxury market in the Western world.”
“Overseas shoppers looking for a bargain benefit from travelling to London because, compared with China, prices are on average 22% cheaper in the U.K., narrowly beating Italy (21.6% cheaper) and France (21.4%).
Take the Louis Vuitton NÉONOÉ bag as an example. On the brand’s own U.K. website, the bag costs £1,060, whereas it costs $1,560 (£1,269) on the brand’s own U.S. website. Visitors to the UK could save a substantial £209 ($256) if they buy during their vacation.
Are you preparing your wardrobe ready for the winter? London has got you covered. A Wool Epsom Overcoat by Reiss costs £295 ($362) in the UK compared to $545 in the US.
On top of the great deals mentioned above, North American travellers can claim a VAT refund on purchases made during their visit to the UK. The value-added tax (VAT) represents a 20% sales tax levied on the majority of goods and services with a few exceptions listed below:
- Services (such as restaurant and hotel bills)
- Items bought online or by mail order
- Unmounted gemstones
- Consumable goods that have been opened (i.e. if you buy perfume it should remain sealed)
- Items that need an export license
- Goods worth over £600 being exported for business purposes
How to claim: According to Visit London, participating shops will issue the shopper with a special form (VAT 407) which will have to be presented together with the goods and receipts to the customs when departing. Depending on the VAT form, the refund can be issued directly to the credit card or cash. Just make sure you ask for the form at the point of sale as not all retailers and locations participate in the scheme.
London’s top shopping spots
Bond Street is the epitome of luxury shopping in London. The street boasts one of the biggest collections of high-end brands in the world with shops like Donna Karan, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Channel, Nicole Fahri, Armani, Ralph Lauren and of course, the quintessentially British names Mulberry and Burberry – all under one roof. But it’s not all about luxury clothing brands. Bond Street is also home to some of the most exclusive jewellers like Cartier, Tiffany and Asprey being just a few of the brands on offer.
Knightsbridge is one of the most engaging, vibrant and yet, unchanged areas of central London, with little in the way of offices but an entire plethora of shops and restaurants to satisfy the high standards of its residents.
Knightsbridge is also home to the world’s most famous shopping destination, Harrods, a huge attraction, employing more than 3,000 staff members across over 300 departments. Harrods also has its own tax refund office – convenient for you to claim your tax back right after your shopping spree. If the numbers above intimidate you, nearby Harvey Nicholas might be a great alternative with three floors of designer brands, an immense beauty department and delicious treats located on the fifth floor.
If you are travelling to London for shopping, chances are that Oxford Street is one of the names at the top of your list and that’s for a good reason. Oxford Street has become almost synonymous with London shopping due to its more than 200 million visitors a year, over 300 shops and 5 million square feet of retail space. The street offers a great blend of luxury department stores such as Debenhams and Selfridges combined with a variety of high-street retail such as Topshop’s flagship store, Niketown and the chic Swedish store H&M.
Save even more at Bicester Village
Saving the best for last, Bicester Village, situated in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside just over an hour by train from London, is the UK’s most popular designer shopping outlet destination. It’s the perfect place for you to plan a shopping spree, ensuring you get even more for what you pay. Above that, they have their own tax refund office for you to claim back tax.
As a Cheval Collection guest, you will be able to enjoy the very best of both worlds: luxury accommodation in central London and some fantastic shopping bargains. Cheval offers a special rate for visitors staying for at least 5 nights, with the final night offered free of charge. There is also a special offer if you intend to visit Bicester Village, with an exclusive VIP Discount Card as well as a £50 Gift Card to spend at this fashionable shopping village (two-night minimum stay required).
All exchange calculation is as of 3rd October 2019.