LONDON // If you’re looking for the nearest branch of Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana, Abdel Miloudi is the man to ask – in Arabic.
The Algerian is one of 11 multilingual assistants called “Oxford Street ambassadors” who work on London’s key shopping streets, giving directions and advice to tourists.
As a team leader Mr Miloudi, 41, oversees three “beadles” who work on Bond Street.
Other members of his team speak a host of languages including Portuguese, Russian and Chinese.
Mr Miloudi said that about two out of every 10 shoppers who approach him speak in Arabic, in another sign of the increased spending by Middle East shoppers in London.
“In Bond Street, they will ask about the main stores – Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Chanel, Bvlgari, Dior,” he said. “They like luxury stores. And they like the cold weather, especially if it is snowing. You don’t get a lot of snow in the Middle East.”
In their black bowler hats, the beadles of Bond Street seem steeped in English tradition. But they were introduced only last year as part of a drive to revamp the area.
They are modelled on the historic Beadles of London’s Burlington Arcade, who have been in service since 1819 and are believed to be the smallest private police force in the country.
In Bond Street, the beadles do not have powers of enforcement but they do have a duty to report problems such as antisocial behaviour to the police.
Mr Miloudi, who has been in the job for three years, is not technically a beadle but oversees the three on Bond Street.
The Oxford Street ambassadors and Bond Street beadles are briefed about new shop openings and local events at the beginning of their working day, which typically lasts from 9am to 7pm.
They are on their feet most of the day, whatever the weather.
“If it is too cold or rainy that’s the only downside,” Mr Miloudi said. “But we get used to it.”