Whether you want £35 espadrilles or £12,000 crocodile-skin shoes, the luxury retailer’s revamped men’s footwear department is a welcoming environment.
Design Callison London
Lighting design Dpa
Size 7,200 sq ft - previously it was 4,000 sq ft
Ambience Exotic and luxurious
Standout feature The bespoke shoe room
Reason for visiting Breadth of the offer, and the environment
Development time One year
Less than three months after Harrods unveiled its revamped women’s footwear department, it has added another string to its footwear bow with the creation of a men’s Shoe Salon in the basement.
At 7,200 sq ft, the new space is getting on for 50% larger than the previous provision made for the category.
And although the words Harrods and footwear in close conjunction might seem a little intimidating to some, this really is a department that offers luxury for all.
It does so in much the same way as it does in its women’s department upstairs - by using Kurt Geiger-branded styles as the entry-price level and then heading on up to “exotics”, as Marigay McKee, Harrods’ fashion and beauty director, puts it.
Translated, this means that if you fancy a pair of python-skin shoes, then this is the place you’ll find them. It also means that this, like so much of Harrods, is a department where the impulse towards creating a luxury environment has gone into overdrive.
Worth noting, too, is that this department, which has cost a little over £2m to create, is part of a larger £5m “domino” effect, as McKee puts it, thatis seeing revamps across a number of departments, with the only area not to gain space being garden furniture.
Key looks and merchandise mix
The point about Harrods is that you expect luxury and for there to be a wide range of brands on offer. The new men’s footwear department does not disappoint in this respect, with 1,400 SKUs currently on show and a capacity for up to 1,900 in the available space.
And as progress is made through the long, rectangular area, the shopper passes from branded, through ready-to-wear exotics and on to more cost-efficient Kurt Geiger styles. Brands ranging from Paul Smith to Prada are everywhere. And with prices in the main range starting at £35, which will secure a pair of brightly coloured espadrilles, to closer to £3,000 for some of the more exclusive styles (Topshop owner Sir Philip Green dropped in on the opening day and proved to be a good customer, according to McKee).
If nothing but the best will do, however, there is a side room where bespoke shoes can be ordered. And if you have the means to shop in this area, expect to spend up to £12,000, for which a pair of gold-highlighted crocodile-skin shoes can be yours. Clearly, this is not for the everyday Harrods customer and with this in mind, the bespoke room can be closed to allow visiting heads of state, among others, a degree of privacy as they make their choice. Whatever level you opt for, however, this is a strong offer.
The men’s footwear department has been designed to show off the shoes as “jewels”, says McKee. And looking through the length of the department, a variety of mid-shop equipment vies for your attention - brass vitrines that look like upscale museum display cabinets sit alongside open-fronted steel steamer trunks and highly wrought tables.
Handled in the wrong way, there is a real danger of this look coming across as flashy, but it’s more about restrained opulence. Internally lit niches around the perimeter have calfskin leather wall coverings, a neutral material that is both masculine and lets the footwear shine.
What is also impressive is the egalitarian manner in which the stock is displayed. It doesn’t matter whether you choose Kurt Geiger or Prada, the display modus operandi is the same - this visual merchandising is about making all-comers feel cosseted in a somewhat Blofeld/James Bond-ish way.
Good service should be a given at this level and the Harrods men’s Shoe Salon really doesn’t disappoint. But if you are going to buy exotics you’d probably be expecting a little more than just a well-oiled and smooth machine to seduce you into reaching for the wallet. Again, McKee and her team have come up with the goods - so if you are waiting for a pair of shoes to be located in your size, how about a free shoeshine?
Alternatively, you can relax in one of the many high-backed, dark leather chairs that are arranged in semi-military lines. As with grand hotels, you may be left alone for a few moments, but during that time you will feel truly pampered.
The department is the work of US consultancy Callison, whose London office has risen to the challenge laid down by Martin Illingworth, director of store development at Harrods. The initial impression is that this is a very bright space, helped by the reconstituted Carrera marble floors and the white ceiling and lights. This was a very deliberate decision to avoid creating a dark space, given the department’s location in the basement and the relatively low ceiling.
It is actually hard to find fault either with the overall design or the execution of the individual pieces of display equipment. This is an area of Harrods that men will feel comfortable in.
Would I buy?
Yes, although I’d feel poor having done so. For mere mortals this is about splashing out, spoiling yourself and walking away with a pair of shoes that will probably only be worn on special occasions. There are, of course, a large number of Harrods shoppers who will think little of the prices. But for them, as for your correspondent, this will be about a sense of occasion. Prior to the refurb, sales of men’s shoes were targeted at £12m a year. In the first year after the makeover, the target is £20m and in 2012, Harrods hopes to take £25m. On the basis of this offer, it may well do so.
Harrods has succeeded in creating a new area for male footwear shoppers that does what a good luxury store should - spoils the shopper and makes them feel special while gently relieving them of their cash. Bank managers everywhere should feel worried when their customers mention the Shoe Salon.
John Ryan, Group stores editor
With a background in fashion buying, including a 10-year stint at C&A in the UK and Germany, John Ryan writes about visual merchandising, store design and the business of launching new shops. As a journalist, he has covered the sector for more than a decade.