Visa Sees Surge In Card Use, But London Businesses Claim Sales Are Weak
Int'l visitors to the U.K. spent more than £450M ($705M) on their Visa cards during the first week of the Olympic Games, up by 8% from the same time last year, according to Alan Jones of the PA. Visa said that restaurants, nightclubs, theatres and tourist attractions "all benefited from the increase." Visa card spending on theatres and other ticket sales "more than doubled" to £5.3M ($8.3M). This is possibly driven by last-minute deals "following reports of a quieter period for the theatre industry and also spending on tickets for the Olympics as additional tickets went on sale" (PA, 8/7). In London, Miles Brignall reported that Visa said that spending among foreign cardholders was up 24% to £2.1M ($3.3M) last week. Visitors are "finding time for sightseeing." Visa spending on attractions and exhibitions was up 12%. A Visa spokesperson said that there was "a big uptake in domestic spending" during the second half of the week as Brits "realised you could travel into London and watch some Olympic events even without a ticket." American visitors "splashed the most non-U.K. cash" during the first week of the Games – £58M ($91M) – followed by Japanese tourists (£30M) and French and Italian visitors, suggesting "the euro crisis hasn't reduced all spending" (GUARDIAN, 8/7).
RETAILERS SUFFERING: Meanwhile, in London, Hopkins & Leroux reported shops that were counting on a summer of events including the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012 and the London Games "breathing new life into the high street have been left feeling as grey as the weather." The British Retail Consortium and KPMG have reported that "like-for-like sales rose by a meagre" 0.1% in the year to July, compared with a 0.6% increase in the same month last year. KPMG Head of Retail Helen Dickinson said, “Sadly, July was a lacklustre month and it’s doubtful this trend will change as early expectations that the Olympics will raise retailers’ fortunes look to be wide of the mark." The consortium and KPMG said that retailers in central London "had been hit hard by shoppers actively avoiding the capital," and it was likely that "any benefit brought by the Games would be short-lived” (LONDON TIMES, 8/7). MARKETING MAGAZINE's Matthew Chapman wrote that the Olympics "may finally be benefiting central London retail after initially having an adverse effect on footfall." Heart of London, the business improvement district representing the area of Leicester Square, Piccadilly and St James’, said that between July 30-31, "footfall was up" 11.6% from the previous week, and up 16.2% from the same week in '11 (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 8/7).
TOUGH SAILING: In London, Simon Greaves reported that businesses in the Dorset resort of Weymouth, which is hosting Olympic sailing on the waters off the Jurassic coast, are "fearful of the worst summer season in half a century." Despite the crowds "that have lined the cliff tops and beaches to watch the action," traditional tourists "have been deterred." Antonio's Cafe owner Francis Drake said, "It's been a bad business. Quite frankly, we will be glad to see the back of the Olympics" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/6).