United Nations of Bargain Hunters: Britons find themselves at the back of the queue as China and Middle East lead rush for designer brands
23:40 GMT, 26 December 2012
Like every sensible sales shopper, Ghada Alhajji set herself a spending limit yesterday. It was, however, slightly bigger than most at 10,000.
The 39-year-old wife of a Kuwaiti government official bought two Prada handbags worth 2,000 and Armani clothes within two hours of Selfridges opening its doors.
She was on a 'shopping' holiday in London while her husband Abdulla attended a work-related conference.
Britons found themselves at the back of the queue yesterday as China and Middle East led rush for designer brands
Shoppers scramble for perfume in Selfridges department store in London's Oxford Street where they took 1.5million in the first hour of trading this morning
Mrs Alhajji was one of thousands of international shoppers who flocked to Britain in search of designer goods in the sales, made even more attractive by favourable exchange rates.
She said: 'I have set a limit of 7,000 in Selfridges and 3,000 on New Bond Street. I saved quite a lot on my Prada bags though because there is 40 per cent off. We come to London because they have all the latest models.'
International shoppers far outnumbered Britons at many luxury department stores yesterday. The tax-free shopping experts Global Blue estimated that Middle Eastern and Chinese consumers would spend an average of 1,000 per trip during the sales this year.
Many are students from the Far East who are studying in the UK – but who do not have student budgets to match.
Thai national Lalana Sermsukskulchai, 25, who is doing a masters degree at St Andrews University, bought a 1,000 Balenciaga handbag within a few minutes of entering Selfridges. She had queued from 6.30am until the store opened at 9am.
'I am going to buy up to five bags today,' she said. 'Things are much more expensive in Thailand and I wanted to experience the Boxing Day sales. I have seen it on the television before but I wanted to see what it was really like. Hopefully I won't get run over by people.'
Queues waiting for Selfridge's department store to open its doors for the sales on Boxing Day morning
A shopper carries a stack of discounted perfumes inside the Selfridges department store
Lola Alkhater, 20, flew from her home in Doha, Qatar, on Christmas Day to begin a five-day shopping trip in London.
Hitting the Harrods sale with her two brothers, two sisters and mother, she bought an Alexander McQueen scarf for 194, reduced from 280.
She said: 'We come here every year for the sales because the shopping is much better here than in Doha. It is loads of fun – me and my family really look forward to it.
Lalana Sermsukskulchai at the sales in the luxury bags section of Selfridges on Boxing Day
Many are students from the Far East who are studying in the UK but who do not have student budgets to match
'The discounts are much better than back at home and you just can't get some of the clothes and bags you can out here in England.'
Chinese shoppers flocked to the Bicester Village retail outlet in Oxfordshire, where the Duchess of Cambridge is a regular visitor.
Lorraine Tse, 34, from Xining, said: 'I bought a Burberry coat that was originally priced at 2,395 for just 479. I do like my designer brands and I am planning to visit Gucci and Prada next.
'In China everything is so much more expensive and the designer shops never seem to have sales.'
Linda Wang, 28, from Beijing, said: 'You will see some people buying armfuls of Gucci bags to take home as it is just so much cheaper here.'
Caroline Genmar, a brand specialist for Michael Kors in Selfridges, said: 'Our Chinese customers love the sales. They pay so much tax in China that they buy loads when they come over here.
'Our biggest customers are from the Middle East, though. They come here because it is a reasonable price and also because London gets the latest collections first.'
Jace Tyrrell, director of the New West End Company which represents retailers across Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, said: 'We have a team of welcome ambassadors ready to greet visitors who speak over 22 languages, including Mandarin.'