Harrods has been an iconic landmark in Knightsbridge since 1853. The original store was destroyed by ﬁre in 1893 but, by 1906, the exterior of the store looked much as it does today: the Grade-II listed building that is renowned the world over.
With more and more stores focusing on providing brand experiences rather than shifting merchandise, Harrods has invested in store interior design and branded boutiques to build on their reputation. With a footprint of 4.5 acres spread over seven floors, it is the UK’s largest single store, accessed via 10 customer entrances, nine customer lifts, seven staircases and six escalators.
Customer feedback highlighted that problems with disorientation and overcrowding were causing aggravation and loss of sales. Pentagram undertook 18 months of observation, research and workshops, applying a service design approach to discover the pain points on the whole customer journey from arrival.
As a result of these findings, it was deemed that the new system would provide a return on investment and the decision was taken to roll the system out across the whole store. The outcome and deliverables for the project was to make wayﬁnding within Harrods best-in-class for luxury retail, with a particular focus on solving the key issues of how to disperse customers more evenly around the store and avoid overcrowding, how to encourage upper floor footfall and how to keep sales floor staff focused on selling, rather than directing traffic.
The store has similar challenges to large museums with complex room structures, inconsistent vertical circulation points and multiple facilities. Important touchpoints during the customer journey were missing, making it impossible for people to put together a whole journey.
The key strategic innovation was the introduction of a room numbering system, something tried and tested in museums but not in retail. This would allow for a consistent and maintainable wayfinding experience whatever the change in space usage. It would also bring a consistency across digital services, printed maps and guides.
Everything was tested; this was a significant, multi-million-pound investment by Harrods and the business case for roll-out of the new system had to be watertight. Various live tests were carried out to validate strategic ideas and test the creative concepts.
The new strategy made the building more legible, increased customer satisfaction and became the strategic foundation for new digital services. It has improved sales floor efficiency and radically improved overcrowding issues. Harrods commissioned independent research that showed that 83 percent of customers questioned believed that the wayfinding system made navigating the store much easier. Staff confirmed that the number of customers asking for directions dropped significantly and journey times for finding key destinations have been cut by two thirds.
The wayfinding scheme has made Harrods a more accessible and less stressful environment to shop in. Now customers are able to locate departments and services either using the physical signage or the App using the room numbering system introduced by Endpoint. This resulted in higher footfall to the upper floors, less congestion on the ground floor and less risk of customers leaving the building in frustration.
Alison Richings (wayfinding project director), Genevieve Smith (client manager), Jaimie Karsan (design strategist), Louisa Wood (graphic designer), Paul Garratt (product designer), Matthew Gray (technical manager)