LONDON — Brand Harrods is in growth mode.
This story first appeared in the February 12, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In a rare meeting with the press on Tuesday morning, Ahmad Al-Sayed, chief executive officer of Harrods’ owner Qatar Investment Authority and chairman of the executive board of Harrods, sketched out plans for the store and the brand. The official reason for meeting was to unveil a light installation by Dale Chihuly that hangs in the entrance to the store’s Grand Hall.
Al-Sayed said a previously mooted Harrods hotel remains part of the expansion plans, and for that the firm is looking at sites in London, New York and “other prime cities” as possible locations. “Everything is for discussion, and we are studying different ways of expansion,” he said, but stressed that he would not try to replicate Harrods in its entirety outside London.
Since Qatar Holding, a global investment house founded by the Qatar Investment Authority, bought Harrods in 2010, the firm has invested 250 million pounds, or $410 million at current exchange, according to a spokesman for the store.
Among the most recent investments has been the restoration of a staircase from 1928 and the redesign of escalators at the entrance to the Grand Hall, where Chihuly’s new light installation has been placed. The chandelier, crafted from 1,400 handblown glass elements in amber and gold, is the first piece of artwork commissioned by Harrods, and its unveiling coincides with an exhibition of Chihuly’s work, which opened Saturday at London’s Halcyon Gallery.
Separately, Harrods is set to unveil its first standalone fine watch room at Heathrow’s new Terminal Two, which is set to open on June 4. The room is meant to “recreate the opulence” of the Knightsbridge flagship’s watch space,” said a spokesperson for Heathrow. The new terminal will also have a dedicated personal-shopping lounge and shops including Bulgari, Prada, Smythson, Bottega Veneta, Mulberry, Paul Smith and Burberry.
Asked about the Qatar Investment Authority’s overall investment strategy, Al-Sayed said the fund — which is also the largest shareholder in the U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury’s — takes a broad approach to its future investments.
“I invest in retail, I invest in commodities, I invest in infrastructure — I invest in different kinds of [businesses],” said Al-Sayed. “We are like fund managers: When we decide on our investment, we check what suits our portfolio and then we make a decision,” he said.