Harvey Nichols has scrapped branded concessions to provide a more intimate and intuitive shopping experience that people are more likely to get at a boutique store.
Having already overhauled its Birmingham store, Harvey Nichols launches the the first iteration of the strategy in London today (7 April) in the form of a redesigned menswear department, which has undergone a nine-month refurbishment as part of a four year plan to renovate the whole store.
Spanning 28,000 square feet the space features the brand’s new design concept which moves away from the traditional shop-in-shop format and instead features a collection of specialised rooms – Contemporary, International, Off-Duty, Tailoring and Accessories.
Speaking to The Drum, Carlos Virgile, partner at Imagination-owned consultancy Virgile + Partners, the agency behind the design, said that the space had been created to interpret what luxury means today and push the idea of the Harvey Nichols brand as a boutique store.
“We really looked at what luxury is about and the clichés of luxury,” he said. “We tried to interpret what is something that is both luxury and fashion and that is what we have been trying to do here: really revert it in such a way that is fun, that is accessible, that is more exciting and not the usual clichés that you see almost in every luxury brand in Sloane street. I think it’s about taking more risk in a way and that shows as you walk around.”
Each of the different spaces is focussed on collections of clothing. For example, the Denim room features white t-shirts of all different brands so consumers are able to better navigate their way around the department.
“It’s a generic approach throughout the whole of the menswear department, which is quite different from many of the other department stores and it really encourages the boutique approach. Harvey Nichols is not a department store but like a boutique and that’s what we wanted to create as well, a boutique concept of the rooms. Brands are important but they are not having their expression,” added Ewald Damen, partner and Virgil + Partners.
The in store experience
Another important aspect of the new design is the introduction of Project 109, a space that will house a café-cum-cocktail bar, a barber shop and an installation space, which will showcase a series of pop-ups and immersive experiences. The idea is to keep people in the store for as long as possible by providing fun activities outside of shopping.
It’s this experiential aspect to the store that is now a focus for Harvey Nichols when it comes to bricks and mortar as it looks to produce engaging experiences for those people that want to enjoy a retail experience, according to brand director Shadi Halliwell, who told The Drum that the impetus for the overhaul was that Harvey Nichols had “fallen off the radar”.
“One of the first things I realised when I joined the business [in April 2014] was that we hadn’t done anything wrong, but we’d kind of fallen of people’s radar. So what I had to do was really think about what is our strategy and what do we want to be known for,” she said. “Over the years we’d built up concessions in stores and it was a barrier to a great shopping experience because if you think you want a trench coat you don’t just want to look at Burberry trench coats, for example, you want to see every single trench coat. So our job was to think about how we could create that.
“There is a moment where we want customers to go to both the online store for efficiency but when you choose a retail experience and in the luxury market the brands and categories that are doing well are those that are delivering experiences.”
Harvey Nichols is also ramping up plans to connect its online and offline experience via the brand’s rewards app which launched last May, and plans are also in place to implement iBeacons across the store to send in-app messages to shoppers, to offer free coffees should the café be particularly quiet.
A menswear campaign is planned in May to promote the new department and while Halliwell was unable to divulge details of the work she hinted that the campaign will poke fun at “awkward moments in life” with social media set to play a key role in engagement.
“That’s the thing that is so beautiful about this brand, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and that’s why we have so much fun. Luxury can be a little bit intimidating and I don’t want it to be, everybody wants a special something in their wardrobe, whether everything is a special something or just one or two pieces. You deserve to come in here, feel like its inviting, that people look after you, you find the right piece for your precious money and you go away thinking I bloody enjoyed that, it was brilliant.”