Harrods, the world’s largest and most famous department store, is more than 170 years old, having opened in 1849 by Charles Henry and is not only rich in history, but in its products too. Recognised for its celebrity-endorsed sales and luxurious and timeless shopping experience, Harrods is to undergo its largest development in its history to help increase its appeal to wealthier overseas customers who visit Britain in a bid to exploit the weakness of the pound – stretching their money that little bit further.
Harrods, which has more than one million square foot of space, has seven floors and 330 departments. Harrods which is owned by the State of Qatar, has a sovereign wealth fund, run by the boss of Harrods, Michael Ward, who has said in a statement regarding the redevelopment that £200million will be spent over the next three years to improve the look and feel of its retail space. The famous exterior which features 12,000 light bulbs and green awnings will remain untouched and not redeveloped.
The refurbishment of the luxury shopping store is already underway, and the grade II listed commercial property, which includes a food hall and its watch room and beauty halls will all increase in size. Currently, the watch room, which houses the Hublot spirit of big bang sapphire chronograph watch on sale for £66,000, and the 18 karat rose golf Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore watch which is on sale for £58,000, will all be re-housed into the basement via a new marble staircase.
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The renovation of Harrods is said to be in honour of Harrod’s wealthy customer clientele who come from China and the south-east of Asia. Michael Ward comments:
‘Our Hong Kong and Chinese customers are extremely important to Harrods so are considered part of our redevelopment plans. For us, the future is in the east and we have been focusing on that for many years’. Chinese shoppers are said to be the second highest spenders after British shoppers. One in every £5 that Chinese visitors spend in London is solely spent at Harrods alone!
‘Many of our Hong Kong customers have second homes in London and may have children at boarding schools in the UK. They spend a significant amount of time in London and at Harrods so we don’t see them as tourists, even if they do get to benefit from tax-free shopping’.
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Official statistics have shown that the number of Chinese visitors coming to the UK in the first six months of the year rose by 47% to 115,000. They spent a record £231million in the first six months, a 54% increase (ONS). Harrods also reportedly had its eight-consecutive year of rising profits – 39% increase in pre-tax profit to £233million. And with the UK’s supposed weakening economy, annual sales from Harrods broke through the £2billion mark for the first time ever.
As an ode to their Chinese fanbase, Harrods, earlier this year opened a branch of its famous tearoom in the British House in Beijing. The British House which features more than 100 iconic British brands, was opened by Highgrove China, the exclusive agent for the Prince of Wales’ social enterprises and a supporter of his charities.
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