LONDON — Harvey Nichols has been transforming its Knightsbridge flagship one floor at a time and with Laura Larbalestier now settled in as the retailer’s new group fashion director, the company has been working to further refine its position in the market.
The retailer has been achieving this is by putting the focus on a wider range of contemporary, Instagram-friendly labels that complement its luxury offering and by upping the ante when it comes to beauty and lifestyle services.
“We’ve been looking to further connect our beauty and accessories offer, with more contemporary bags and jewelry,” said Larbalestier.
Harvey Nichols put its ground floor on the retail map after scoring a U.K. exclusive with Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and debuting a new sleeker, refurbished section that offers an array of beauty services, from LED facials to Hershesons blow-dries and Boudoir lash extensions.
Now the company is looking to leverage the traffic of its beauty department by building a world of contemporary accessories on the same floor, while international luxury accessories are moving to the designer floor upstairs.
The aim is to cater to social media-driven customers’ appetite for accessibly priced, styling pieces that are popular on Instagram.
Cue a wider selection of hair accessories, Susan Alexandra photogenic earrings featuring fruit charms and bags by contemporary labels such as Staud, Paris-based Elleme and Little Liffner. Newcomers also include ready-to-wear label Eudon Choi, who is introducing bags for the first time, and buzzy brand Wandler which will act as “an anchor” to the store’s contemporary strategy.
This mix of beauty and contemporary fashion is the answer to the retailer’s dilemma on how to update its top floor in a way that will keep customers engaged.
“The challenge for us was what to do on the top floor after we’ve already gone through three floors of women’s wear and we came up with this idea of bringing lifestyle and fashion together,” added Larbalestier, pointing to a mix of fashion pop-ups that are in the works by the likes of Saks Potts, Borgo de Nor, Maggie Marilyn and Marques Almeida, as well as 111 Cryo concepts, blow-dry salons and a new Goop concept by Gwyneth Paltrow.
There will also be a contemporary shoe section, spotlighting brands such as By Far, Rejina Pyo, Aeyde, Wandler, Yuul Yie and Salondeju, a new Korean label launching exclusively at Harvey Nichols and building on the success of fellow Korean label Yuul Yie.
The department store also revamped its designer women’s wear floor last summer, opening up the windows and offering space for key brands to create their own shop-in-shops in order to inspire a more intimate, boutique feeling.
Since the unveiling of the new space, sales have gone up by 45 percent, according to the company, and for the upcoming fall season there will be new shop fits by Burberry and Jil Sander — which will replace Calvin Klein — as well as a bigger focus on British labels with the likes of Roksanda, Peter Pilotto and Roland Mouret being showcased on the floor alongside big luxury names such as Versace, Marni and Loewe.
Elsewhere, the retailer is planning to expand its lingerie department on the second floor and introduce a “Summer Essentials” shop that will feature summer accessories, beauty products and hero swimwear and resort wear by brands such as Three Graces and Rhode Resort.
The store’s third floor is bringing all the younger categories together, fusing contemporary clothing with casual wear in a bid to reflect how customers want to dress today and to leverage the selling power of well-priced, transitional pieces. There will be a contemporary ready-to-wear section that offers day-to-night pieces at entry-level price points by the likes of Norway-based By Timo and Copenhagen-based Rotate and next to the Scandi-heavy, contemporary section, streetwear, lounge wear and sneakers will come together.
The company said that it has expanded its streetwear offer with 12 brands, including Reebok by Victoria Beckham, Vaara and H20fagerholt, a new label by a Danish mother-daughter design duo that fuses street and performance wear.
With regard to men’s wear, the store is seeking to take a holistic view of its ready-to-wear, accessories and footwear offer, combining certain categories, reorganizing the downstairs men’s room and building the business around how men — and especially young men — shop today. The store said it wants to cater to the “sartorial needs of father and son,” echoing the mantra of luxury brands such as Burberry and Salvatore Ferragamo, which are looking to become ever more democratic.
In a separate presentation dedicated to men’s wear, Larbalestier said that young men are investing in fashion similar to the way young women invest in makeup. She said that Instagram is driving both sets of sales, with men going for “known brands and logos.”
Men are buying high-end and street — as long as the clothing has a strong look, brand name or identity, men are sold. The store said business from the big international brands was up 35 percent last year, with the top five labels — Off-White, Balenciaga, Balmain, Valentino and Givenchy — delivering double-digit growth.
In a bid to satisfy the designer brand and logo-hungry customer, the store has combined footwear and accessories for the first time, increasing space for both categories by 38 percent. Buyers said bags are becoming a “necessary” part of a man’s wardrobe, and called out the Loewe Puzzle Bag as a top seller. On the footwear front, the store said it has purchased in excess of 10,000 sneakers for the upcoming season, including McQ, Veja, Burberry, Acne, the various Adidas collaborations and Salomon.
Sneakers continue to build momentum across a variety of price points and styles. Larbalestier and her team said the Dior B23 logo-splashed high-tops and low-tops sold out within a week of hitting the shop floor. She said it was fascinating to see how quickly the fashion customer pivoted from the chunky-sole sneaker to a slimmer, Converse-style shoe.
Another trend she highlighted was pricing, with men responding to a variety of prices, from 350 pounds to 750 pounds, with the Alexander McQueen Larry sneakers a bestseller at the lower end of the scale.
The contemporary and streetwear category continues to gain steam, with Harvey Nichols moving the space to the second lower-ground floor, and giving it 35 percent more floor space. Newness is helping to drive sales, as are logo items, with young customers sensitive to details such as logo size and placement, another trend that’s Instagram-driven.
Top sellers in the category include Stone Island, Kenzo, McQ, C.P. Company and Billionaire Boys Club. The store said it has also seen an uplift in streetwear sales regionally — not just in Knightsbridge. Harvey Nichols has stores in London, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpoool, England; in Dublin, Ireland, and in Edinburgh, Scotland. The store said that street is by no means niche — or London-based.