Harrods might not be the first place you’d think to go to for tech purchases in London. But the British retailer wants to change that, fast. In one of the biggest transformations the store has seen in its 185-year history, a Gensler-designed, state-of-the-art technology department has been unveiled, complete with areas for experiential masterclasses. The 11-room, 30,000 sq-ft (2,787-sq-m) space now entitles Harrods to the distinction of having one of the largest electronics departments in the UK.
Head of technology Stewart Mancey explains that the expansion is a bid to attract today’s prosumers, a term coined in 1980 by futurist Alvin Toffler. ‘Technology products were once deemed niche, but the category has become increasingly diversified and now has broad appeal,’ Mancey says. ‘As a result, our new customer is the “prosumer” – someone with the desire for professional equipment despite being a hobbyist or amateur. From taking family photos on the best cameras to hearing records through the world’s best speakers to watching movies on the best displays, customers have become more engaged in how the latest technology can add value to their lives.’
The expansion grows Harrods’ pre-existing tech department – relocated from the third to the fifth floor – by nearly 80 per cent. Gensler was briefed to create a space that simultaneously references the retailer’s heritage in addition to its traditional focus on fashion. A 3-m-wide catwalk, decked with Harrods’ signature floor pattern and a continuous illuminated ceiling feature, was designed to connect the five dedicated zones for vision, computing, audio, imaging and connectivity. The catwalk also serves as a brand showcase, hinting to customers what will be on offer once they make their way into the immersive rooms, in which lowered lighting and product density ‘enable customers to better engage with the brands and their displays’. In the audio zone, for example, shoppers can explore the ‘headphone forest’, or visit one of three listening rooms for bespoke soundscape experiences.
‘Our vision was to create a world-class destination for some of the biggest technology brands in the world,’ continues Mancey. ‘Harrods now has a product offer to rival not only our direct competitors, but also niche specialist technology retailers.’