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'Free-spending' tourists worth £725m to UK shops in Christmas build-up

Brexit tourists injected some much-needed Christmas cheer into the British high street with a "massive" surge in spending, figures show.

High street spending on foreign bank cards was up 22% year on year in December, according to data from credit and debit card processor Worldpay.

The figure suggests bargain-hunting tourists cashing in on the weak pound post-Brexit were worth £725 million to UK shops in the build-up to Christmas - £130 million more than last December.

Visitors from Hong Kong spent an extra 69% in UK stores during December compared with 2015, while spending on UAE cards was up 31% and Chinese tourists placed an extra 24% on the plastic.

The amount spent by French and German tourists over the festive period was up 14%.

High-end boutiques and department stores in London's West End were among the biggest beneficiaries, with tourists spending 35% more than last year.

Outside of London, retailers in Manchester and Edinburgh saw year on year tourist spending rise by 19% and 24% respectively last month.

Worldpay UK chief marketing officer James Frost said: "Bricks and mortar retailers have not had things all their own way this Christmas, with the latest reports suggesting UK consumers are increasingly doing the bulk of their shopping online.

"So the influx of free-spending tourists we saw in December will have been a welcome boost for retailers looking to balance the books.

"UK retail centres, including London's West End, are a magnet for visitors from all over the world, made all the more attractive by the bargains on offer as a result of the weakened pound.

"High street retailers must now seize the moment to consolidate their global standing by investing in technologies to help them deliver the quality, experience, choice and convenience which will keep tourists spending."

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