Harrods has announced an overhaul of its womenswear departments as part of a multi-year revamp to promote discovery and experience for customers over hard sales. As one element of a £200 million upgrade, the luxury department store will combine 47 brands across lounge, lingerie and sleepwear in a 16,000-square-foot space on its first floor. Further updates to this floor will feature holiday and occasion wear, due to be completed in autumn. Renovations to the fourth floor, which currently houses women’s ready-to-wear and contemporary fashion, are scheduled for completion by 2026.
The upgraded first floor features custom-made fit-outs for well-known luxury brands including La Perla, Skims and Agent Provocateur. It will also offer services such as bespoke alterations and personalisation, building on the ‘growing focus and demand’ for tailoring seen in recent years. Fashion buying director, Simon Longland, says ‘It is very much about making us the ultimate luxury destination for womenswear and making sure that it’s not just a physical location to shop’. The redevelopment comes at a challenging time, as retailers and department stores face increasing economic pressures, while physical stores are being outcompeted by e-commerce rivals in the context of the pandemic and changing shopping habits.
Refurbishment plans commenced two years ago, part of store-wide upgrade plans spanning Harrods’ 330 departments, aimed at attracting and, crucially, retaining consumers. Revamps began in the famous food hall in 2018, followed by refurbishment of the menswear department in 2021 and updates to the beauty halls and treatment areas last year.
More recently, Harrods announced the opening of new collaboration Prada Caffè, similar to its recent partnerships with Dior and Louis Vuitton, as well as the Tiffany Blue Box Café which occupies space on the ground floor. Customers wanting a Prada dining experience will need to be quick, as bookings are only available until January 2024. Whether a similar partnership will pop-up in its place has not yet been announced.
The retail sector has been busy over the last month, with an increase in takeover and M&A activity from a number of large businesses. Frasers Group has been particularly active, having increased its stake in online fashion retailer, Asos, from 7.4% to 9.9% at the beginning of June, followed by a further increase to 10.6% only a week later.
This rapid investment has fuelled speculation of a possible takeover by Frasers after Asos was relegated from the FTSE 250 index earlier in June, causing its shares to hit a 12-month low. Despite these figures, Asos has returned to profitability in 2023’s third quarter, but the longer term prospects for Fraser Group’s investment in the online brand still remain to be seen.
Boohoo and Currys have also received investment from Frasers this month, with the retail empire picking up stakes of 9% and 5% in each brand respectively. Frasers have stated these acquisitions align with their existing brands Missguided and I SAW IT FIRST, and open up the potential for synergies and collaboration across the female fashion space.
To top off its acquisition activity, Frasers also bought a £75 million, 18.9% stake in AO World, rival company to its later Currys acquisition. Frasers Group has stated that its latest acquisitions were ‘consistent with its strategy of building "supportive" positions in "attractive" companies’.
Alongside Frasers Group, Next has developed a reputation for acquiring a plethora of big brands, although recent reports suggest it may be considering offloading them, as opposed to snapping up new ones.
It was reported this month that Next has entered into talks regarding its current 51% stake in Reiss, with a view to a potential sale, in a deal which could be worth more than £500 million. Next acquired a 25% stake in Reiss in 2021 and then increased this to hold its current majority control in August last year.