EXCLUSIVE: Harrods chief merchant describes Brexit impact on exceptional summer of 2016


Central London’s luxury watch stores may never enjoy another summer like 2016 as post-Brexit jitters drove the value of the pound lower, making top end timepieces 25% cheaper than rival markets around the world and sucking in high-spending visitors from overseas.

Helen David, chief merchant at Knightsbridge institution Harrods, suggests the spike should be considered an exception to normal years.

“We saw an exceptional performance from the Fine Watch Room in 2016; this growth was certainly bolstered by the favourable exchange rate post-Brexit, however we also saw an extremely strong Half 1 in 2016, indicating that Harrods was already a global destination for Fine Watches,” she told Watchpro in an interview that will be published in full in the September edition of the magazine.

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Luxury watch brands have increased prices in the UK — some of them more than once — since Brexit in order to reduce differentials to other markets. This appears to have taken some of the heat out of the market for Harrods this summer with the number of shoppers at the Fine Watch Room down compared to 2016.

Helen David, chief merchant of Harrods.
Helen David, chief merchant of Harrods.

“This year has also started very well, including the anniversary of a very strong summer season last year, as aforementioned. We have not seen the same high traffic as last summer,” Ms David reveals.

The shoppers that have come through the door have spent more. “We have experienced a significant increase in high value sales, especially on pieces over £200k,” Ms David says.

The Harrods Fine Watch Room is about to undergo a major refurbishment, which when fully re-opened will occupy two floors connected by a spectacular spiral staircase.

The first phase of that redevelopment will be completed in time for the crucial Christmas season at Harrods.

“For the remainder of this year we expect to have a phenomenal run up to Christmas, which is always a busy season anyway, as we will be celebrating the opening of phase one of our large-scale refurbishment works. Phase 1 will see the opening of six new boutiques, a VIP suite, our elevated multi-brand area and an entirely new After Care department, complete with in-house watchmakers,” explains Ms David.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder