Now Debenhams is reflecting the capital’s “rainbow” make-up by displaying shop signs in Nigerian, Mandarin and Arabic.
The retailer’s flagship Oxford Street branch is piloting multilingual placards to attract free-spending visitors from Africa, China and the Middle East.
Today’s launch includes the sign “Na gode don sayayyarka a Debenhams” which means “Thank you for shopping at Debenhams” in Hausa, a language spoken by around 45 million people in West Africa.
Another board features symbols from the Arabic alphabet which mean “Great value prices”.
Londoners speak over 300 languages, more than 2.2 million residents were born abroad and the city has more than 50 non-indigenous communities with populations of 10,000 or more, according to the last census.
However, it is believed the foreign language signs mainly target rich, short-stay tourists from overseas. Middle Eastern shoppers spend more per head than any others, with Saudi Arabians parting with an average of £1,678 a trip, more than twice as much as Americans.
Up to a third of spending by tourists during the busy summer months is forecast to be by shoppers from the Middle East.
When deciding which language would appear in the trial Debenhams looked at the highest number of foreign shoppers who claimed their tax back with the store.
“We’ve selected the most used signage terms in our stores and translated them accordingly, says Senior Store Manager Oxford Street, Marcus Appleton.
“With this trial we are one stage closer to Debenhams meaning great designer value in any language.”
The weakening of the pound and summer sale discounts in the recession appear to be attracting rich foreign tourists to London’s shopping districts. Retail website Global Blue estimates Nigerian visitors are up 71 per cent on last year while Chinese tourists have risen by almost one third.
Debenhams claims Nigerians are keen on mens’ tailored suits and prefer those designed by Jeff Banks. Chinese shoppers are said to favour cosmetics and expensive perfume brands.
The Evening Standard