As Managing Director of Harrods Michael Ward has one of the most influential and exciting roles in luxury retail. Since joining the business in 2005, he has embarked on a programme of significant business development, enabling Harrods to become the unrivalled and extremely successful retail model it is today. We spoke with the MD and Board Member of Knightsbridge Partnership for our Partnership Profile portfolio.
Q: Explain to me a little bit in your own words what your business does, what its known for, and who it caters to.
Harrods is the most famous department store in the world and is home to 330 retail departments and concessions. Harrods acts as a shop window to the world of luxury, presenting not only the widest selection of international luxury brands but also the most exclusive offerings from these brands, many of which can only be found in our Knightsbridge store. Our store also houses 22 culinary destinations, representing different cuisines and bringing together a host of award-winning and world-renowned chefs under one roof including Bjorn Frantzén, Jason Atherton, Tom Kerridge, Gordon Ramsay, Mireille Hayek and Angelo Musa. As well as exclusive products and unique dining experiences, one of Harrods’ most renowned attributes is our unparalleled service. Our philosophy of “anything is possible” ensures we remain the international leader in luxury retail.
Q: What challenges are currently facing you organisation?
Like all retailers, Harrods faced many challenges during the pandemic, including not being able to welcome our international customers to the store for long periods of time. During this period, we invested in providing the best services to our local customers. We launched several new dining experiences, building our impressive portfolio of internationally-acclaimed chefs, and renovated our Hair & Beauty Salon to offer new and exclusive beauty services and treatments. We also found new ways to engage with our international customers in their own markets during this time. For example, in China our award-winning tearoom in Shanghai allowed customers to enjoy Harrods’ iconic hospitality from abroad and we engaged our Chinese customers from afar in creative and innovative ways through our social and digital channels. Now that travel restrictions around the world have finally been lifted, we are seeing the commitment of our international customers in returning to Knightsbridge.
Q: What do you see as the main benefits of being based in a district like Knightsbridge?
Knightsbridge is one of the most desirable addresses in Central London. It is the home of so many iconic and luxurious retail destinations, five-star hotels, exclusive restaurants and beautiful residences. Knightsbridge also borders Hyde Park, arguably London’s most famous green space. Harrods sees a variety of customers come through its doors every single day; whether these are our local regulars or our visiting international customers We are fortunate to be located right in the heart of Knightsbridge, an area that has so much to offer to local Londoners and visitors alike.
Q: What’s the one thing the BID perhaps is doing, or could be doing, that would make the biggest difference in your opinion?
The BID’s goal is to transform Knightsbridge into the number-one luxury retail and hospitality destination in London; it offers the power of collaboration with like-minded retailers and hospitality ventures to achieve this goal. The BID offers a holistic approach, driving forward and representing Knightsbridge on London, UK and international levels but also promoting the smaller things that benefit the area, such as more pleasant streets. I believe the BID’s vision can make Knightsbridge the most sought-after postcode in London, benefitting both local businesses and importantly, also the residents who call this wonderful area home.
Q: Why did you want to become a board member for the BID?
Harrods has been a key part of Knightsbridge for over a century; people visiting the area will most likely make a stop at Harrods, so the future and growth of Knightsbridge and our own business are closely linked. I am also Chairman of the Walpole Group, the sector body for UK luxury, and many of Walpole’s members are also present in Knightsbridge so I can bring the perspectives of the wider British luxury sector where there are common goals with the BID.
Q: Do you have a favourite restaurant, or a pastime in Knightsbridge at all?
I may be biased, but I must say the recently opened Studio Frantzén by Michelin-starred chef Bjorn Frantzén on the fifth floor of Harrods is my new favourite restaurant. Bjorn Frantzén is an incredibly talented chef and the menu is his take on a hybrid of Swedish and Japanese cuisine. The space is a work of art, and the restaurant features two dining rooms, a state-of-the-art bar and a terrace with unrivalled views of Knightsbridge and the London skyline. Baccarat Bar at Harrods is also an all-time favourite of mine – with its own entrance on Hans Crescent, the bar features unique cocktails served in an intimate setting on the lower ground floor of the store.
Q: Is there something that you could tell me, the readership, about Knightsbridge that we might not know?
Most people are not aware of this, but Harrods has its own underground tunnel system underneath the streets of Knightsbridge – connecting our building on Basil Street to the store itself. Our teams use this tunnel system to enter and exit the store on a daily basis.
Q: What words would you use to describe Knightsbridge?
Iconic, timeless, innovative, dining destination, elegant, modern, ever-changing, luxurious, and uniqu