GLASGOW shops are embracing a boom in overseas visitors by taking on foreign-speaking staff and introducing tax-free shopping.
One city store has employed around 20 Chinese-speaking staff to target the "Peking pound".
In what's thought to be the first move in Glasgow to cater for shoppers from the booming Far East nation, Frasers has around 20 employees who speak Cantonese or Mandarin.
The bi-lingual staff work in the Buchanan Street shop's luxury acces- sories concessions such as Prada, Hermes, Miu Miu and Gucci, which are part of a £20million upgrade spent on the Buchanan Street store's ground and first floors over the past few years.
Manager Paul Mitchell, 42, said: "It's a no-brainer. That's where the luxury economy seems to be sitting so it makes total sense. We want to be able to converse with them.
"Things like putting 'Happy New Year' on the doors in Chinese for Chinese New Year changed people's perceptions.
"The level of Chinese cus- tomers is phenomenal.
"What Glasgow needs to wake up to is that it's a global economy now. It's a huge opportunity.
"It's not just about the Chinese, we are working with some of the beauty brands to bring in booklets in different languages for their key products.
"We want to reinstate Frasers as the dominant department store in Scotland."
Spending by Chinese tourists in UK stores rose by 64% last year to £165m, according to retail analysts Global Blue.
It's common, say Frasers' staff, for girls to video-call family back in China to help them to decide which bag to choose - or to ask them to transfer the cash to spend on must-haves that are cheaper than back home, though still out of most people's budget. A £29,000 Hermes Birkin bag has just been sold and there are eight people on the waiting list for the bags, which start at £15,000.
The store has also introduced new paperwork at till points to make it easier for overseas tourists to claim tax back at the airport.
City marketing boss Scott Taylor said city retailers are responding to the opportunities offered by tourists.
Scott said: "As Glasgow continues to grow the number of direct air routes into the city, so we are seeing greater numbers of overseas visitors.
"Glasgow Airport plays a major strategic role in the economic health of the city, and no more so than in the tourism sector. The introduction of Emirates' double daily service from Dubai from June has been a major step forward in terms of increasing visitor access from the likes of China, India and Australia.
"Already, city retailers are recording a greater interest in tax-free shopping, and as Glasgow welcomes more overseas visitors, so businesses, such as Frasers, are responding to the opportunities this presents.
"I am sure that this investment will further boost both Frasers' and Glasgow's enviable reputation as an unrivalled and unique retail experience, and make the city even more of a draw to international visitors."
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Stuart Patrick said: "House of Fraser's recent initiatives further reinforce Glasgow's status as the No1 shopping destination in the UK outside of London.
"Another interesting factor is the number of international students studying in the city's universities, who in turn are regularly visited by friends and family, also keen to pick up many of the luxury items which Glasgow's shops have. Glasgow Chamber of Commerce welcomes any moves by retailers to make the international shopping experience smoother for visitors."
Frasers' measures are just the latest move by the 166-year-old shop to compete in the global market.
Another £15m will be spent over the next two years, with a makeover for the women's department one of the major projects.
Glasgow-born Paul has been brought back from his role as boss at the firm's Oxford Street store in London to lead the revamp.
He said: "When I was aged under 10 my nanna used to bring me in here. It was the Harrods of Scotland at the time. My aim is to get it back to what it used to be."