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Helen Dickinson of the British Retail Consortium

Foreigners with smartphones give UK retailers a much-needed boost

Armchair shoppers from abroad gave British retailers a major boost during last year’s Christmas shopping season, according to a major survey released this morning.

With UK household incomes stagnating, the big players in the retail sector are looking abroad for new customers, according to the study by the British Retail Consortium and Google.

And they are using smartphone and tablet technology to reach customers in far-flung destinations.

The October to December quarter saw a 64 percent increase year-on-year in the amount of overseas consumers searching for UK retail brands on smartphones, with a 41 percent rise in the volume of searches by tablet computers.

Germany saw the most substantial growth rates in smartphone searches for UK sales at 231 percent, followed by Russia (145 percent) and Argentina (137 percent).

Germany also topped the league table for searches via a tablet – up 130 percent, with France at 78 percent, Russia at 66 percent, Ireland at 65 percent and the Netherlands at 47 percent.

Clothes shopping saw the greatest increase at 66 percent on smartphones and 41 percent on tablets, followed by home and garden (53 percent / 40 percent), beauty products (56 percent / 51 percent), and leisure products (17 percent / 22 percent).

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium said: “The UK is the world’s second biggest online retail exporter, beaten only by the USA.

“These new figures show UK retailers are investing heavily in international online experiences, localised websites and faster delivery times to drive exports.

Google retail director Peter Fitzgerald said: “This Christmas mobile truly came into its own. Those retailers who invested in cross-device experiences – allowing their customers to easily find, buy and discover no matter where they are – reaped the rewards.”