Tax-free shopping in Europe registered a 7 percent increase from May 2014 to April 2015, despite a big fall in purchases by Russians. This is what emerged in the presentation of recent research by Global Blue to Altagamma's Monitor Update Conference in Milan, on May 21.

The duty-free shopping market in Europe is concentrated in France, Great Britain, Germany, and Italy. Among these four key markets, the trend was negative only in the U.K.. France reported the most substantial growth, with a 15 percent increase, followed by Germany, with 9 percent. Italy posted a more modest 1 percent increase. In contrast, tax-free shopping declined in Britain by 2 percent.

The Chinese accounted for 32 percent of global tax-free purchases and 31 percent of those made in Europe. Purchases by Russian tourists fell by 28 percent at both the global and European levels due to the weak ruble. Nevertheless, the Russians stayed in second place, with 11 percent of global purchases and 13 percent in Europe. Tax-free purchases by Americans increased by 16 percent from May 2014 to April 2015, representing a market share of 4 percent both worldwide and in Europe. Among the other nationalities, the Taiwanese emerged as a rising star, with an increase in spending of 32 percent compared with the previous year, and a 2 percent share of the market, both worldwide and in Europe. Tourists from Hong Kong also made more tax-free purchases during the last twelve months, with a 29 percent increase in spending in Europe and a 27 percent rise in the rest of the world compared with the same period a year earlier. Hong Kong shoppers held a market share of 2 percent. In contrast, spending by Japanese tourists suffered from a weak yen and fell 12 percent over the last twelve months.

Contrasting with a reduction in the number of Russian tourists visiting the country, the top spenders in France were the Chinese, with 38 percent of sales and up 26 percent on May 2014. They were followed by U.S. shoppers, who took 5 percent of the market, and shoppers from Hong Kong and Taiwan, both with a 4 percent market share. Taiwan reported the best performance in France during the 12-month period, rising by 30 percent.

In Italy, Chinese shoppers posted a 26 percent increase in tax-free purchases, with a market share of 27 percent. Purchases by Russian tourists fell by 27 percent, although Russia was the second-ranking nationality for shopping in Italy, with a 20 percent market share. The Russians were followed by American shoppers, who accounted for 7 percent of the market. Purchases by American tourists grew by 12 percent as compared to May 2014. The best performance during the 12-month period came from Korean tourists, with a 29 percent increase and 4 percent of the market.

In Germany, which registered 9 percent growth in purchases by international shoppers since May 2014, the positive trend was mostly driven by jewelry and watches. The Chinese were the top spenders also in Germany, with 39 percent of tax-free sales and a jump by 26 percent over the last twelve months. As in other European countries, spending by Russians tourists fell in Germany, where the decline was by 28 percent as compared to the previous 12-month period. However, here also, the Russians were still the second-ranking nationality, with 15 percent of the German market. Tax-free purchases by Swiss tourists in Germany grew by only 11 percent, in spite of the strong Swiss franc, and accounted for 6 percent of total purchases.

In the U.K., tax-free shopping fell by 2 percent and continued to be led by tourists from the Middle East, who accounted for 28 percent of the market. Their purchases grew by 2 percent, below expectations, probably due - according to Global Blue - to the fall in the price of crude oil, which had an impact on spending in all oil-producing countries. The Chinese held the second place in the British market, with 25 percent of spending and a 5 percent rise against May 2014.

Global Blue said in a press release that the general positive trend in Europe should get a boost from Expo 2015, the World Fair that is taking place in Milan through the end of October. that takes place until October 31 in Milan, whose repercussions may extend to all Eurozone countries.