Harrods puts technology 'on the catwalk' in Knightsbridge store

Harrods opened its revamped technology department on the fifth floor of its London Knightsbridge flagship in the summer, highlighting consumer electronics’ continued rise in prominence as a consumer lifestyle product.

The space was officially unveiled in August, but Essential Retail took a Black Friday guided tour of what the retailer and design agency partner, Gensler, describe as an "immersive" area featuring a central “catwalk” for customers to view cutting edge – and, in some cases, exclusive-to-Harrods products.

Visitors to the fifth floor can now step into a 30,000 sq ft tech experience, comprising 11 brand rooms, as well as breakout spaces – or ‘listening rooms’ – to try out products, and locations for special events and classes. A central thoroughfare takes them from Bang & Olufsen at one end to Leica at the other, taking in five zones comprising vision, imaging, computing & gaming, connectivity and audio.

Owain Roberts, senior associate and design director at Gensler, commented: “It’s a direct draw from the world of fashion and the world of lifestyle – we’ve created this amazing catwalk showcase to present the very latest product.

“The draw isn’t just to buy stuff – it’s a spectacle as much as anything, a destination you visit to be amazed by the very latest in gaming, flat screen TVs et al. The idea of catwalking is very much Harrods showcasing the latest from around the world.”

Using technology to sell technology

The new department features several Harrods exclusives, where apart from going direct to the brands themselves, the products are only available in this new environment. In the Samsung store-in-store, for example, multimedia display, The Wall, lights up the back of the room cinema-style, and is available for a cool £400,000.

Adding to futuristic narrative is a drone cage, and Acer’s Predator Thronos Gaming Chair, which features an ergonomic seat design and motorised footrest to support immersive gaming. At 1.5 metres tall, it captures the eye during a tour and customers were queuing up for demonstrations on the day of this publication’s tour.

Each zone is peppered with digital signage displays helping add to the cinematic experience, while supporting the brands’ respective marketing messages.  

Apple’s 12-table execution in the department represents one of its largest shop-in-shop fit-outs outside it's own stores, and brands showcased on the floor are seemingly keen to bring customers they would otherwise serve in their own spaces to this new location.

Kate Woodhead, divisional merchandise manager for technology at Harrods, said: “It’s been quite exciting to see how the customers who are used to going to specialist retailers but are now engaging with those brands in Harrods – that’s a journey we want to go on.”

Explaining the reasons for the revamp, she added: “The store as a whole is going through a number of changes which gave us the opportunity to pull technology onto more of a destination floor.

“The Harrods store has been quite an immersive, service and proposition-led retailer for its entire history. Tech wasn’t in a position where it was offering that at its previous location.”

Moving with the times

Woodhead said technology is “naturally the most engaging, immersive product” in the Harrods store, and stressed the importance of giving it “hero space”. Previously, technology had been merchandised across two rooms on the third floor, and not arranged in zones, but now the retailer believes it has been elevated appropriately.

“I think tech is becoming more lifestyle and fashion-led – or accessory-led – it’s not niche or geeky,” Woodhead noted, adding it is much more of a mainstream product category than in the past.

Technology is always evolving and – much like fashion – trends come and go, so the new space has been created to be flexible, according to Roberts.

“It’s been future proofed, even down to the mid-floor fixtures which have been designed to carry various types of product so we don’t have to get rid of an entire mid-floor unit if the product changes on top of it,” he said.

Harrods describes the refit as one of its “biggest transformations in the store’s 185-year history”, and the new-look space now reflects the modern items it is tasked with selling.

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