LONDON — It’s been quite a summer for Harrods, which is morphing from one store into four, and boldly introducing new concepts in the face of COVID-19, a crisis in retail and still shaky consumer confidence.
On Sept. 17, the retailer will tug open the curtain on its first stand-alone beauty store, H Beauty, at a shopping mall in Lakeside, Essex, England, while a second location is set to open in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England, next spring.
More from WWD
Although plans for H Beauty were revealed almost a year ago, months before the coronavirus burst into Europe, aspects of the 23,000-square-foot space have been tweaked with social distancing and new hygiene standards in mind.
Harrods is promising a “wonderland” of premium and luxury brands, technology such as the Light Salon, an at-home LED light therapy system, and services such as the Dior Le Salon facials suite.
There will also be bespoke fast facials from Sisley, and product personalization from Dior, Givenchy, and Atelier Cologne.
The store will offer new names, such as Iconic London, a trend-led makeup brand that sells mostly online, and those already on offer in the recently refurbished Harrods beauty halls such as Chanel, La Prairie, Creed, Huda Beauty and 111Skin.
Annalise Fard, Harrods’ director of beauty, fine jewelry, watches and home, described the space as “a destination, a beauty emporium offering experience, makeup, skin care, hair care and fragrance.”
Fard said she sees beauty as the entry point into luxury “and it’s very exciting to be able to take the excitement and engagement for beauty and really deliver it to a customer on a wider platform.”
She added that by opening the first H Beauty store in Lakeside and the second one in Milton Keynes, “we are bringing beauty to an incredibly responsive community of existing beauty lovers. Although the brand portfolio will be similar across both locations, the edit will be slightly different according to the culture of that location, city or that particular client and will allow H Beauty to be the central beauty hub in each destination.”
Harrods was prescient in choosing both locations: Both are a short drive from London and rely on wealthy, aspirational, and makeup-loving locals — rather than international tourists — for business.
Harrods’ Knightsbridge flagship reopened in June but it is suffering — like every other central London retailer — from a lack of tourism, especially from China and the Middle East. Over the summer, the store revealed plans to lay off 14 percent of its staff due to a lack of footfall in London.
Mia Collins, head of beauty at Harrods, said the H Beauty concept has “really bold ambitions, but they’re ones that are entirely befitting of this amazingly vibrant and dynamic category that is beauty. To have the opportunity to pair this with equally vibrant and dynamic communities across the U.K. is nothing short of epic.”
She said the retailer “can’t wait to debut this concept in Essex — home to some of the U.K.’s most discerning beauty consumers.”
Collins isn’t kidding: Anyone who’s ever watched the British reality TV show “The Only Way Is Essex” knows how the locals love their spray tans, nail bars, hair and eyelash extensions.
She said the store has planned “a packed calendar of exclusive brands and pre-launches and a raft of names that simply won’t be available anywhere else in Lakeside — cue Charlotte Tilbury, Byredo, Dr Barbara Sturm, IGK and Huda Beauty.”
The space features a Skincare Station that offers facials; magic mirrors allowing customers to virtually try on different makeup products and colors, and a Playtable offering access to dry hair styling and makeup demos and consultations.
H Beauty will also be offering a click-and-collect service from late September for customers who shop online at harrods.com. They can pick up and apply their purchases in the changing rooms.
There is also a Champagne Bar, with a menu of patisseries and cocktails created by the Harrods food and beverage team. Going forward, the store plans to introduce eyewear styles from the David Clulow Sunglasses boutique.
The retailer is taking its anti-COVID-19 responsibilities seriously: There will be various sanitizer stations throughout the store for both customer and employee usage, and all customers will be asked to sanitize their hands prior to touching any product or receiving the in-store beauty treatments.
Harrods said the store’s 23,000 square feet will allow for 130 customers to be present at one time. Outside the entrance, security will be present to manage social distancing for those waiting to get in.
Tester products will not be available for trial on beauty counters, although customers can request to try products themselves with a member of the team advising from a safe distance.
No makeup brushes will be used and, where sample palettes are not possible, disposable single-dip testers will be available for customers who wish to try on makeup, Harrods said. All tester products will be thoroughly cleaned before and after use.
Harrods is on a retail opening roll: In July, the retailer opened the doors of the first Harrods Outlet, a concept store at Westfield London that is currently selling spring 2020 stock across men’s, women’s, children’s, beauty and accessories. The store is set to remain open until the end of March 2021 and also plans to sell fall sale merchandise as the seasons evolve.
Located in the former Debenhams space at Westfield, the new Harrods Outlet spans 80,000 square feet over two floors. Conceived and built in five weeks, it was designed with social distancing in mind. The space is brightly lit, spare, easy to clean and with simple display units that are spaced far apart. Some 120,000 product units from 100 fashion and accessories brands will be stocked in the new space.