Global Blue is a tourism shopping tax refund company headquartered in Nyon, Switzerland. The company is best known for tax-free shopping, a VAT/GST refund product and additionally operates in dynamic currency conversion, marketing services, point-of-sale technology, retail staff education, and customer intelligence. As of 2014, a few 130 countries levy VAT/GST, about 50 offer to refund VAT/GST to tourists for private exports.
Started in Sweden in 1980 tax-free shopping is about refunding the VAT/GST levied in normal stores on the high street to non-resident visitors who'll privately export the goods purchased, according to the legislation in the European Union and additional countries; tax-free shopping isn't to be confused with duty-free, which started in Ireland in 1947 and relates to specific stores (most most often located in travel-related environments like airports) that are exempt from the payment of certain local or national taxes and duties.
Founded as Sweden Tax Free Shopping, the company later became Europe Tax Free Shopping and then Global Refund in 1998. Global Refund moved headquarters from Kungsbacka, near Gothenburg in Sweden, to Nyon, in the Lake Geneva area, in 2001 for a more central position in Europe to manage its business then gone global but with a strong merchant customer base in European tourist destination countries. In 2007, the company was acquired by Equistone Partners Europe (at the time Barclays Private Equity). Previously operating the two brands Tax Free Shopping and First Currency Choice, Global Refund completed its repositioning, product diversification and rebranding as Global Blue in 2010.
Equistone Partners sold the business in May 2012, for 1 billion euros to the technology private equity firm Silver Lake, with Swiss private equity house Partners Group taking a minority stake. On 10 April 2014 Global Blue announced the appointment of David Baxby as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the board of directors, taking over from Per Setterberg. Following David Baxby a new CEO, Jaques Stern, has been announced on 18 May 2015.
In 2010 Global Blue and the Economist Intelligence Unit started to use the expression 'globe shopper' to identify the market segment of "people who consider shopping as a fundamental part of their travel experience". Global Blue Intelligence's globe shopping data and publications are referenced by international and national media including the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, City A.M., the Moodie Report, China Confidential and The Hurun Wealth Report.
In 2010 the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore commissioned Global Blue to develop and operate Singapore’s Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme. In 2011 the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service selected Global Blue as the payment supplier for tax-free shopping in Australia. In July 2013 Global Blue announced a joint venture with NTT DATA to offer tax-free shopping services in Japan. Global Blue is additionally a certified supplier of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) Quality Service Certification programme.
Global Blue employs around 1,700 people in 43 countries, and provides services to approximately 270,000 merchants (retailers, hotels, restaurants, etc.), and banks in these locations. The main IT Hubs of Global Blue are located in Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia) and Singapore.