Research - 06.12.2017 - 00:00 

No easing up for shopping tourism

Despite the fact that the Swiss Franc is no longer so strong, Swiss consumers in 2017 still enjoy shopping abroad and spend billions of francs outside the country. Online shopping tourism has experienced a particularly significant increase. This has been revealed by the most recent survey by the Institute of Retail Management at the University of St.Gallen.
Group of friends sitting outdoors with shopping bags - Several people holding smartphones and tablets - Concepts about lifestyle,shopping,technology and friendship

6. December 2017. This year, Prof. Dr. Thomas Rudolph, Dr. Liane Nagengast and Frauke Nitsch from the Institute of Retail Management at the University of St.Gallen (IRM-HSG) have, as in 2015, again investigated the five affected Swiss retail sectors: food, cosmetics, clothing, sports and furnishings. Compared to 2015, the Swiss retail loss has grown by almost 10% due to shopping tourism in these sectors. The estimated loss in 2015 amounted to 8.3 billion francs, while in 2017 it has already reached 9.1 billion francs. The growth of online shopping tourism in particular poses new challenges to Swiss retailers.

Fewer Swiss consumers are buying more

In 2017, although fewer total consumers (particularly from Central Switzerland) travelled abroad to shop, the average amount of goods purchased nevertheless increased. It has become popular, particularly for older consumers, to shop abroad. Income is not an influencing factor, however.

The shopping routine abroad
In the cantons close to the border, more than half of Swiss consumers make a habit of shopping abroad. Drugstore items are particularly popular. This increase in everyday shopping is worrisome for Swiss vendors. When habits emerge, they prove very difficult to change in the long term.

Online shopping tourism is steadily increasing
While in 2015 just barely 30 percent of consumers ordered from foreign vendors on the internet, in 2017 it has already grown to 37 percent. Locally, consumers are also ordering more goods more often, particularly in the cantons of Central Switzerland. On average, in the five affected sectors, they purchase 23 percent of their needs from foreign online vendors. However, online shopping tourism has also increased greatly in the cantons close to the border. Consumers are mostly buying clothing and sports items.

Reduction of the VAT exemption limit would considerably weaken shopping tourism
In the medium term, a reduction of the VAT exemption limit could curb shopping tourism. The current VAT exemption allowance for the import of goods into Switzerland amounts to 300 francs (net commodity value). If the VAT exemption limit were reduced by 50 francs, the researchers predict that shopping tourism would decrease by up to a third.

Picture: Fotolia / oneinchpunch

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