Retail Insider held its first Breakfast Event of 2020 with Chris Dee, director of food and home at Harrods, who discussed the significant transformation journey that the company has been on over the past couple of years.

Chris gave some insights into how the company has completely overhauled its food halls, toys and technology departments, and undertaken serious changes within its home departments that have further enhanced its luxury positioning and boosted its experiential proposition.

Senior executives from New Look, Fortnum & Mason, Marks & Spencer, Sofa Workshop, and John Lewis were among those gathered at the Perrier-Jouët Terrace at the Harrods flagship store in London’s Knightsbridge to hear how Chris moved in 2015 from his previous role as CEO of Booths supermarket to a director role at Harrods.

He says he found it liberating to run a business largely focused around one – albeit a sizable one million sq ft – store: “It’s been glorious having one store. You can get things done in an hour…and you can see immediately the effects of the changes you make. It is also a much bigger business. Booths had £300 million of sales while Harrods has £2 billion.”

A key part of Chris’ responsibility involves the food and beverage offer that is the “heart of the business” and the element Harrods is famous for. He oversees 25 restaurants – with 10 new ones having been opened in the past year – including the Tiffany Blue Box Café. This is one of a number of collaborations Harrods will undertake with well-known luxury brands, he says.

The company also opened its first H Café, in Henley, which acts as both a food and drink venue and a point for click & collect. For people unable to make it into the Knightsbridge store, the café provides access to high-end facilities where customers can try on the clothing they have ordered online.

This is evidence of how Harrods is developing its multi-channel capabilities and is part of a major overhaul of its e-commerce proposition. At the centre of this is the agreement Harrods has made with Farfetch and its Black & White division, which is now running the department store’s online operations.

This gives Harrods access to the “thousands of developers” at Farfetch, according to Chris, who says it enables it to be at the cutting edge of technology capabilities.

Retail Insider would very much like to thank Chris Dee and the morning’s sponsors K3, Openpay and Womble Bond Dickinson. Without their much appreciated support this event would not have been possible.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider