Focus on European Department Store: 2017 in review

Exposing the reasons behind department stores' success and how can they win over the lucrative Globe Shopper market.

With exceptional Tax Free Shopping (TFS) sales growth during 2017, department stores across Europe have cemented their position as a key venue for Globe Shoppers this year. Why are these retailers thriving and what is the next opportunity in their bid to attract the lucrative Globe Shopper market?



  • Department stores account for around 25% of TFS spend in 2017
  • All nationalities (except Gulf Countries) show positive sales-in-store results in European department stores
  • Next challenge: how to win these clients’ loyalty in department stores?

As international luxury brands and retailers are transforming their boutiques into more identifiable and local niche spread across the world, department stores still continue to attract Globe Shoppers in search of a fast and exclusive retail experience. In fact, in 2017 the department store category accounts for around 25% of global TFS spend, making it one of the strongest but also fastest growth engine for the Tax Free Shopping industry.

In contrast to the USA’s challenged department store industry, which has come under criticism for its failure to ‘reinvent’ its offering and make itself relevant to younger consumers, European department stores are upping the ante.

The mix of carefully curated goods coupled with experiential offerings including the new ‘shoppertainment’ trend, increased acceptance of payment options such as WeChat Pay and instore Tax Free lounges is proving to be very successful with international Globe Shoppers. The number of sales in store in European department stores has grown by +25% in 2017.

Most nationalities’ performance is growing in European department stores, with the exception of Gulf Countries, although fierce department store shoppers whose performance has been slowed down due to recent turmoil back home. As expected, Chinese Globe Shoppers are the leading drivers in terms of transaction numbers and account for more than half share of spend in these venues.

During 2017, Global Blue has worked with merchant partners across Europe to boost services available to Chinese Globe Shoppers, including early refunds with UnionPay at a number of department stores including in Amsterdam, London and Italy.

While undoubtedly an established destination for Globe Shoppers visiting Europe, department stores represent a prime location for ‘Elite’ Globe Shoppers*. In fact, ‘Elite’ Globe Shoppers who frequently visit department stores report a higher total spend: over the last 12 months, this segment has spent an average of €47,100 globally. This trend goes for ‘Frequent’ Globe Shoppers* too who also report a higher average spend when shopping in department stores often. Taking this into account, there is opportunity for European department stores to build out their offering into one that is relevant and attractive to win these clients’ loyalty.

Global Blue recently extended its in-store early refund service to Alipay customers. Fast Refund offers Chinese Globe Shoppers greater flexibility around when and how they are paid VAT refunds, by giving their refund digitally, directly onto their Alipay accounts while shopping. The service is currently in a two-month pilot phase with key well-known department stores across Europe such as Steffl (Vienna), La Rinascente (Rome & Milan), KaDeWe (Berlin) and ECCO (Prague) and will be deployed to affiliated stores throughout 2018.


*’Elite’ Globe Shoppers: Global Blue identifies ‘Elite’ Globe Shoppers as travellers who have spent more than €40,000 over the last 24 months.

*’Frequent’ Globe Shoppers: Global Blue identifies ‘Frequent’ Globe Shoppers as travellers who have travelled more than 3 times over the last 24 months.