Great Britain

Bicester Village designer mall loved by Chinese tourists is deserted with trade down 85% after coronavirus outbreak

THE Bicester Village designer mall, known to be a bizarre tourist mecca for Chinese tourists, is now deserted with trade down 85 per cent since the coronavirus outbreak.

The Oxfordshire retail village draws thousands of Chinese tourists each year in search of designer bargains, but now retailers fear sales are falling.

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Now shoppers from Asia and the Middle East walk through way through the stores wearing face masks and applying hand sanitiser since the outbreak of the coronavirus. 

Chinese tourists comprise the biggest market for the 160 luxury shops on-site, which include Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry.

Many Chinese tourists combine their trip to the UK with a stint to the suburban shopping district with the added perk of claiming the 20 per cent VAT available to non-EU visitors.

More than seven million people visited Bicester Village in 2019, according to its owner Value Retail.

The site reported sales of £259 million in 2018.

And many of the shop assistants believe much of these sales are down to Chinese tourism in the area.

More than 72 per cent of Chinese visitors to the UK go shopping during their trips, according to research by VisitBritain.

One shop assistant at one store in Bicester Village said they are "concerned" about how reliant the shops are on tourism.

Fashion buyer Xia Yae told the BBC she has noticed a "lot less people" travelling to the retail village in the last two weeks and Bicester retailers are having a "tough time".

Other shop assistants echo her concerns, adding that the last two weeks have been "quiet".

One branch estimated that have seen a drop of about 85 per cent in the number of Chinese customers entering the store.

An unidentified shop assistant said: "It's been a double whammy. Storm Ciara also meant a lot of the trains and coaches from London were cancelled. It's really scary."

Chinese tourists have also been known to flock to the tiny nearby Oxfordshire village of Kidlington for a glimpse into the "true" sense of England.

A tour guide said it was the quiet environment of the picturesque houses and gardens which attracted tourists, saying "we don't have [these] in China. Here, we are looking for the true sense of this country".

Kidlington resient Baz Daniels told the BBC he had been in touch with a friend in China and discovered: "Kidlington is apparently being marketed by Chinese tourist agencies as a beautiful English village on the way to Bicester Village shopping centre.

"Many of the visitors live in cities and love to see things like the hanging baskets and little flowers in people's gardens."

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