Harrods, the iconic department store, is from today accepting domestic Chinese debit and credit card UnionPay in a signal of the growing importance of Chinese shoppers’ spending power to the luxury retail sector.

Harrods has installed 75 point of sale terminals at its Knightsbridge store and a further eight at its airport terminal branches in a bid to become the most accessible store in Europe for Chinese shoppers. It has timed the launch for Chinese New Year, which is celebrated today.

Harrods, which said that sales to Chinese shoppers in 2010 almost doubled on the previous year, has benefitted from offering brand conscious Chinese shoppers exclusive offers from superbrands including Louis Vuitton, Dior, Cartier and Hermes.

The number of Chinese shoppers to the capital has surged as levels of wealth in China have soared and the pound has weakened.

On the first day of the Harrods Winter Sale on December 27, Chinese shoppers constituted half of all the department store’s visitors and was one of the busiest recorded days of the year.

Harrods managing director Michael Ward said: “We are delighted to welcome the UnionPay card. The added ease and accessibility it offers, coupled with the outstanding range of services available for our international visitors will ensure the Harrods shopping experience is second to none”.

Harrods will also increase its number of Chinese and mandarin-speaking staff, advertise in high end Chinese publications and has encouraged Chinese celebrities to attend the store, including an appearance by Huang Xiaoming in November 2010.