Brexit, pound's plunge bring a UK shopping discount
Online Anglophiles can save 10 to 20 percent, and may even get free shipping
By Susan Ladika | Published: October 10, 2016
If you’re looking for an unusual, discounted-by-world-events gift this holiday season, look across the pond. The Brexit vote in June means Americans can score teas, crumpets and maybe Manchester United football (soccer to us U.S. folks) jerseys for about 10 to 20 percent off regular price.
Or maybe you have a little one who would like a Harrods 2016 Hugh Christmas Bear for 19.95 British pounds? Or an Anglophile aunt who would treasure a Harrods London travel mug decorated with the London Eye, Big Ben and other iconic sites for just 9.95 pounds?
No, you don’t have to hop on an airplane and jet off to London. You can order plenty of presents online. And you’ll get far more for your money as the value of the British pound has plunged more than 16 percent since voters in the United Kingdom voted to split from the European Union.
“The pound is the weakest it’s been in three decades,” says Nick Beeny, owner of the shopping website MyInternationalShopping.com. “That’s great for American shoppers or anyone out there who loves U.K. stuff.”
At the end of September, $100 was worth 77 pounds. On June 23, when the U.K. voted to leave the EU in a vote commonly referred to as “Brexit,” $100 brought just 67 pounds.
While it’s hard to say the exact impact the falling pound has had on online shopping, more tourists have been flocking to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland since the Brexit vote, and those travelers are spending liberally.
The pound is the weakest it’s been in three decades. That’s great for American shoppers or anyone out there who loves U.K. stuff.
Owner of MyInternationalShopping.com
“Before Brexit, package bookings from the United States to Britain were growing at 32 percent a year, but in the weeks after the vote, that number grew to 45 percent,” says Expedia.com spokeswoman Lindsay Cameron.
Overall, the number of visitors from around the world coming to the United Kingdom jumped 4.4 percent for June and July, to slightly more than 7 million, while the number of visitors from North America climbed 5.3 percent, to 1.08 million, said Kurt Janson, director of the U.K. Tourism Alliance.
Meanwhile, spending in the United Kingdom soared 37 percent in August from shoppers who live outside the EU. The big shoppers are from the United States, China and the Middle East, said Global Blue, a company that specializes in tax-free shopping.
Amanda Nixon, an American who lives in London and who owns LastFlingLingerie.com, says, “The devaluation of the pound has been positive when I sell anything in the U.S. and convert. I get more than before.
“But when I’m paying bills in the U.S. or am trying to buy any American products, I basically have to pay more pounds than before.”
Nixon hasn’t seen U.K. business boosting prices. “My hairspray is $20, and it’s 20 pounds in the U.K., so there’s no perceivable hike in price to compensate for the lowered conversion rate.”
For someone using dollars to buy that hairspray in London, the price would be about $26 today, compared to more than $29 on June 23.
If you want to order merchandise online, MyInternationalShopping.com highlights shops around the globe that deliver their merchandise worldwide. Even British department stores such as Harrod’s and Selfridge & Co. (think of the PBS drama “Mr. Selfridge”) offer worldwide delivery.
Many places will even provide free shipping if you spend a certain amount on merchandise, such as $20 or $50. “Free international shipping is growing all the time,” Beeny says.
Among the most popular British online sites for shopping are ASOS and Boohoo, which feature British fashion. Other popular U.K. sites are the department stores John Lewis and Marks & Spencer and the Book Depository for books, he says.
It’s a great time to visit. Your hotels, food, gifts and travel within the U.K. are a good bit cheaper. You can stay a little longer or in a little nicer a place for the same amount as you would have pre-Brexit.
An American who lives in London
and who owns LastFlingLingerie.com
Many retailers around the world, including Harrods in the United Kingdom and Macy’s in the United States, work with the company Borderfree, which handles the shipping for merchandise sent internationally, Beeny says.
Merchandise you purchase from the United Kingdom with a declared value of less than $200 will typically be cleared through U.S. Customs without you having to fill out paperwork or pay import duties, he says.
And if you use a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, you won’t have to worry about those extra costs being tacked onto your bill. Some cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees include Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card (see review), Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card (see review), BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card (see review) and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (see review).
Depending on the card you use, you also might earn cash back or points for your Brexit-discounted holiday haul. Or you could cash in your rewards cards travel points to jet off to London to fill your sack of gifts.
“It’s a great time to visit,” says Nixon. “Your hotels, food, gifts and travel within the U.K. are a good bit cheaper. You can stay a little longer or in a little nicer a place for the same amount as you would have pre-Brexit.”
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