West End retailers are hoping to lure more high-spending foreign shoppers by financing a interpreting booth on Oxford Street, offering directions and shopping advice from Mandarin, Arabic and Russian speakers.
A planning application for the Shopper Pavilion is to be submitted to Westminster City Council on February 25. Scheduled to open in early 2012, London’s Olympic year, the £2.1m structure will be located between John Lewis and House of Fraser, the department stores.
Retailers have become increasingly attentive to the needs of Chinese, Middle Eastern and Russian visitors, who are forecast to spend nearly £1bn in the capital’s shops in 2011.
“We want to improve the welcome for our international shoppers and ensure they’re looked after, given the right information, and talked to in the right way, in the right language,” said Richard Dickinson, chief executive of the New West End Company. The not-for-profit organisation is funded by 600 retailers and businesses to promote shopping in the capital.
Foreign tourists from outside the EU are an increasingly important part of the UK’s retail economy, and are forecast to spend £2.7bn in 2011, up from £2.4bn last year. About 80 per cent of this is expected to ring through the tills of shops in the capital, with luxury and designer brands the target, according to financial services group Global Blue.