Students from the MA International Fashion Marketing programme were recently treated to breakfast at Harrods with a talk given by managing director, Michael Ward.
The event took place early morning in the iconic tea rooms (est. 1911) before the gilded doors of Harrods had even swung open. No stranger to Regent’s University London, the veteran retailer and chairman of Walpole delivered a lecture at Herringham Hall last November. This offered an intriguing insight into the world-famous luxury destination store.
In this second meeting, students from the master’s Fashion Programme were exclusively invited by the man who has supercharged Harrods’ fashion departments, most recently with a menswear Super Brands area, on home turf. Here, he continues to invest in experiential adventures for global shoppers searching for, in his words, “something they don’t even know they want…. yet.”
Given the tough retail environment and competition from e-tail, the continued success of Harrods remains remarkable. Ward remains responsible. His mission? To make the store a “world of wonder” with storytelling behind product proving key. As well as investing in and discovering what could be British superbrands of the future, Harrods prides itself on telling fashion fairy tales like no other with their extra-ordinary visual displays; something last year’s £2 billion turnover is testimony to.
“The store is a stage,” regaled Ward, “and we are creators of magic…it’s never just about price.” Sharing this stage with Ward at the breakfast meeting was Harrods' elegant chief marketing officer, Amanda Hill, who welcomed students adding she felt daunted being in a room with so many of the future fashion generation.
After a mouth-watering feast of fresh fruit delicacies and smoked salmon blinis, washed down with the finest English breakfast tea, students joined in a Q&A session with the two Harrods experts. This covered topics ranging from how luxury fashion retailers were committed to investing in craft, to beauty industry disruptors, and how women were (finally) buying fine jewellery for themselves. At £50,000 a pop no less. Whilst hinting at the pragmatic stance required to deal with the demands (and egos) of 21st Super brands.
We learned that the biggest change in visual merchandising (from shop window displays to mannequins) was that people no longer dressed head-to-foot in the exact same designer brand.
As the clock ticked towards ten o’clock - opening time - students were tasked with exploring the store and will at the next meeting, deliver their verdict. Watch this space.