Let’s be honest: if the new Harrods c-store concept were anything less than spectacular, we would all be disappointed. Needless to say, a disappointment it is not, containing everything from ‘muffins to massage’ and ‘carnations to caviar’, as the posters in Knightsbridge Tube station declare.
Named after its address at 102 Brompton Road in London and situated opposite the Harrods department store, Harrods 102’s sleek minimalist facscia looks strangely subdued compared with the gaudy ornate garb of its parent across the road.
The company is calling it a c-store, but step inside and you are greeted with 9,000 sq ft of grocery food, food to go and health and well-being departments, all stamped with the familiar Harrods hallmark - arguably with a bit more class than the department store.
Harrods 102 caters for a different kind of consumer than the big store. “Shopping in the department store is about taking your time and interacting with our staff. Harrods 102 is the edited-down version for people who just want to grab something and go,” says Andre Dang, Harrods spokesman.
However, it still upholds the Harrods philosophy of doing things better. As a result, it is worlds apart from the average convenience store.
The grocery department takes up the centre of the floor and offers a narrow range of groceries, drinks, confectionery and, at the back of the store, a range of fresh foods including salads, meats and caviar.
While all the same suppliers to Harrods food halls are used in Harrods 102, 40% of the grocery lines in Harrods 102 are not available in the food halls. It’s easy to see why: some of the confectionery includes honey containing giant hornets, toffee-encased scorpions and Chinese tea picked by trained monkeys.
The reason that Harrods 102 will stick in the mind, though, is because of the concessions surrounding the grocery section.
A significant amount of floorspace is given over to a seated café area, with the drinks and pastries provided by Le Fournil de Pierre, a traditional French bakery supplier, making its first appearance in the UK. This is complemented by Bagel Factory and Krispy Kreme concessions, along with a Harrods Deli stand. Opposite, a Yo! Sushi restaurant area provides for the hungry Knightsbridge lunch crowd, and alongside sits a fresh flower stand (“Not just ordinary flowers, but Kenneth Turner flowers,” says Dang) and an Energy Kitchen where you can buy fresh fruit juice, soup and pretzels.
Move to the back of the store and you realise that Harrods 102 is completely trying to redefine the c-store. Not only are there spacious toilets for the coffee quaffers in the café, there’s a pharmacy that focuses on ‘urban healing’ and contains an oxygen spa bar for those in need of an energising lift.
There’s also a traditional Chinese medicine and healthcare unit, offering consultation, massage and acupuncture services, and a Blossom & Browne’s Sycamore dry cleaners.
Designed by Landini Associates in steel and glass and brightly lit from above and the sides, the c-store is located 100 yards from a Sainsbury’s Local, but Dang doesn’t see the other store as competition. “Let’s face it, we’re on a different pricing structure here,” he says. “People can come in here and have something different for lunch every day. But we’re not cannibalising Harrods’ customer base, we’re appealing to a wider market.”
Whether the number of concessions is slightly over the top probably doesn’t matter. Harrods attracts those who revel in indulgence and, fittingly, a concierge service is on hand to pander to those too lazy or unable to leave the house (a delivery service is available if you’re within a 10-minute walk) or to put together your shopping order before you arrive for a quick pay-and-go service.
Promotional activity in the first weeks includes free coffee, free bagels and free ‘oxy’ sessions. Dang doesn’t expect these to last though. “Lunchtimes are already manic and we’re only going to get busier.”
It is, of course, logical that a c-store of this nature is trialled in Knightsbridge, but Dang sees no reason why it can’t be applied elsewhere too.
“There are no plans as far as I know to roll this out nationally, but from a retail perspective it’s a perfect franchise model,” he says.