LONDON — In a break with tradition — and retail practice in the U.K. — Harrods will be launching its Winter Sale on Dec. 17, and running it throughout the holiday season, and into early 2022.
The store said Thursday that “further reductions” will be introduced on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, which is when the post-Christmas sales usually begin.
COVID-19-related lockdowns have upended the seasonal routine, and this marks the second time that Harrods has pushed forward its sale. Harrods kicked off its sale in early December last year in between two national lockdowns. The physical sale ran for just three weeks, and then shifted to online when stores were forced to shut.
With physical stores open, and with no more lockdowns on the horizon (despite the spread of the Omicron strain here) Harrods is still opting to kick off the sales season earlier than usual. People are doing their Christmas shopping earlier, Harrods said, and the store wants to give them ample opportunity to grab a bargain.
Harrods said customers could take advantage of its sale via the retailer’s e-commerce platform, or through the remote Personal Shopping service. The store said it was offering “exceptional reductions,” as part of the sale.
Harrods also needs to compete with the big online retailers, which usually start their winter promotions earlier than the physical stores. Net-a-porter unlocked its 50 percent off sale on Tuesday. Matchesfashion is offering an extra 10 percent off its sale merchandise.
Harrods’ managing director Michael Ward said that as Harrods enters “this important moment in the trading calendar, we are delighted to give our customers the festive treat of the Harrods Winter Sale to enjoy wherever they are, be that at our iconic Knightsbridge store, online or through our remote shopping services.”
Ward added that Harrods “has never been afraid of adapting to suit the changing needs of our customers, and we hope that bringing our sale forward will give our clients all over the world an opportunity to enjoy the magic of Harrods at Christmas for longer.”
Harrods — like its fellow high-end retailers — has faced a multitude of challenges since COVID-19 struck in February 2020.
As reported, Harrods saw its turnover and profit plunge in fiscal 2020-21 due to a twin attack from COVID-19 and Brexit.
According to Companies House figures, Harrods swung to a loss of 57.3 million pounds in the 52 weeks to Jan. 30, 2021. That compares to a profit of 191.4 million pounds in the previous year.
Harrods saw turnover fall by more than 50 percent to 429.5 million pounds as the store was forced to close due to the series of lockdowns imposed by the British government during COVID-19. Gross transaction value (including value added tax) in the 52-week period fell by 50.1 percent to 1.1 billion pounds.
In July 2020, the retailer confirmed it was looking to reduce up to 14 percent of its workforce of 4,800. Job cuts came from those parts of the business “most adversely impacted by the loss of trade” due to the lockdown.
Throughout the first lockdown, Harrods said it paid furloughed employees in full and provided support through its in-house Corporate Health Service.
In a note to staff at the time, Ward described the early months of lockdown as a “terrible period for the country,” adding that “with a heavy heart, I need to confirm that due to the ongoing impacts of this pandemic, we as a business will need to make reductions to our workforce.”
Ward said it would take “time and a drastic improvement in external conditions” for Harrods to recover and return to growth.
But Harrods — and its fellow retailers — never got the chance to witness those drastic improvements — at least not yet. Recovery at retail has been tentative at best due to ongoing restrictions.
While physical stores remain open in the U.K., new social distancing restrictions and vaccine requirements have been put in place to slow down the spread of the new Omicron virus strain.
Travel remains restricted, with visitors to the U.K. having to take tests before and after arriving. They also must quarantine in the U.K. until they receive their local test results.
In addition, foreign nationals can no longer take advantage of VAT rebates when they purchase goods in the U.K.
In the summer of 2020, Harrods had opened a temporary outlet at Westfield London as a permanent sale store, but that space is now shut. The retailer has also been rolling out a new concept called H Beauty across the U.K.
H Beauty offers products, treatments and Champagne bars with the strategy of appealing to premium beauty lovers outside the big cities.