The Residence, an invitation-only personal shopping concept that Harrods first introduced in Shanghai during the COVID-19 pandemic, will undergo an “evolution” at the end of 2023 by becoming the British luxury department store’s first-ever private members’ club, WWD has learned.
The club will be nestled on top of the Harrods Tea Room, which opened in 2021, at the restored historical mansion of Cha House within the HKRI Taikoo Hui development. It comes with a bar, a spacious lounge, private dining rooms and outdoor terraces.
Sarah Myles, international business development and communications director at Harrods, said the major elevation of The Residence came after listening to the feedback from local clients who were not able to travel internationally during the pandemic.
“What came through very loud and clear was that they enjoyed the hospitality, the entertainment and the unrivaled customer service, and one of the touch points that translates so well to deliver those things is food and fine dining, and everything that goes along with that,” Myles told WWD.
“So it is an evolution of that concept and the fact that this is a private paid-for members’ club. Again, we listen to our clients and we take the very best of the insights globally that we have available and there was an opportunity in this space that no one was delivering. What we hear from our clients and our position as a global authority in that space allows us to command and deliver for that discerning audience, a paid-members model,” Myles added.
The other reason the project pivoted toward the hospitality experience is that major luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada run their own private client services in China, and Harrods would be more competitive if it offered things that “you can’t get in China,” according to Myles.
The members’ club is a relatively new idea in China, except for Hong Kong. The former British colony has a relatively long history with the paid-membership model, and new players have been flocking into the city in recent years. Soho House opened its first China outpost in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong in 2019, and Rosewood Hotel unveiled its take on the member’s club with Carlyle & Co. in 2021.
The arrival of The Residence Shanghai is likely to ignite a chain reaction and inspire other retailers and developers to rethink their loyalty programs in mainland China.
For the launch, only 250 members will be accepted to join the club, with additional members considered following peer nominations later. The three-tier membership starts from 150,000 renminbi, or $21,015, a year. Depending on the tier and the occasion, each member can bring in a varying number of guests to the club.
Myles said the criteria for admission would not be as straightforwardly wealth-focused as other clubs.
“It will be based on lifestyle and interests. It’s based on a community and that’s really what we’re trying to deliver — communities of passion, be that for collecting whisky, be that for entertainment, be that for art. What we’re trying to understand and nurture is a space that delivers unrivaled customer service, but is programmed to like-minded people,” she said.
Drumrolling for the opening of the club, Myles confirmed that The Harrods Hive, an incubator program first introduced in 2021, will make its return to Shanghai Fashion Week in October. The latest edition centers around the topic of unpacking luxury, and Shanghai will be the third stop after Beijing and Dubai. Afterward, the event will head to Saudi Arabia.
The anchor attraction of the club will be Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay looking after the member’s-only restaurant. It will be Ramsay’s first outpost in Shanghai, and will serve elevated British dining inspired by the social nature of the club.
According to Ashley Saxton, director of restaurants and kitchens at Harrods, the Gordon Ramsay concept in Shanghai won’t be set up to be as rigid as a Michelin-starred restaurant. Instead, it will be more “approachable” and “can be enjoyed by many different palates, whether that’s discerning or something that you want to have light bites at a bar, or whether you want to bring friends and have a three-course meal.”
A selection of whisky from The Macallan, The Glenrothes, and Highland Park will also be on offer through a partnership with Edrington Group, the U.K.’s top whisky supplier.
“I think what’s really important is it’s not just the product, it’s the experience that comes with it. Whether that’s bar takeovers with great cocktail menus, whether that’s Ramsay doing experiences in private rooms, whether that’s Macallan doing a tasting or a release of a new product, they’ll all be housed around this hospitality space but it’s always bringing these experiences to that space which are underpinned,” Saxton said.
In addition, members can enjoy the club’s creative programs and perks from Harrods’ extensive concierge connections and luxury brand partners.
The membership also grants automatic access to black tier status with Harrods Rewards and associated benefits in London, as well as access to lifestyle services including Harrods Aviation, Harrods Estates, Harrods Interior Design, and private shopping services at the Knightsbridge store.
Myles added that the store will even roll out its famous green carpet for their arrival.
“We will know because our membership is going to be kept very deliberately small in the first year. Together with our very sophisticated CRM and CMS database, we will know when they’re coming to London and that will allow us to personalize that visit, to cater to every request, and go above and beyond on customer service,” she said.
Looking to the future, Myles said it would be her dream to expand the members’ club concept to other locations in China and beyond, but it will never be an exact replica.
“Chengdu is very different from Shanghai. I mean, not at least the scene, the entertainment, and the clients. So, whereas we will take the very best of The Residence model, there will always be a hyper-local aspect to what that is,” she added.
A Harrods members’ club in London is not off the table either, Saxton confirmed, adding that it’s a topic the team is discussing internally.
“I think that there’s the mentality of how you position a private member’s club with access and exclusivity which we embed into our private shopping and black-tier customers without physically calling it a private membership club,” he said.
“If you look at what the premise of a private member’s club is, it’s about exclusivity, and it’s about access. And I think we can offer that. Some of our private shoppers have their own private line into our reservations team, for example, that gives them access to any restaurant, anytime any day. Even if that restaurant is not bookable or is fully booked, we get them a table,” Saxton said.
Myles added that Harrods is also investing heavily in the physical space where the black-tier customer shop in the Knightsbridge store is in the next two years, as part of a 200 million pound-plus, 10-year storewide refurbishment.