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Harvey Nichols Company’s Competitive Advantage Essay

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Updated: May 23rd, 2020


Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Harrods all target up market consumers of fashion and other similar items. However an analysis of Harvey’s characteristics reveals that it is superior to its rivals. The suitability of its design and ambience to high-end users, its customer service, product selection, international presence, customer policy as well as its size are all in line with its market position. These qualities allow the firm to offer service qualities that top-end consumers look for in departmental stores. As such, it is better than Selfridges or Harrods.


The department store industry has experienced tremendous changes over the years. Non-food retailers such as Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Harrods have been responsible for an industry turnaround after the recession. These department stores target top-end consumers; however, Harvey Nichols’ in-store designs, product selection, customer service, and overall atmosphere are better suited to the upmarket consumer than any of the three rivals.

Why Harvey Nichols is better

Harvey Nichols and Harrods both aim at providing a touch of class in their stores. Therefore, their designs ought to match this objective. Harrods has a retail theme-park feel that makes it better suited to foreign or overseas clients. On the other hand, Harvey Nichols has a more attractive feel that makes it look trendy. It has window displays that are dazzling to the eye as they are quite artistic (Blackhurst, 2001). This explains why many up-market customers would approach the business. Selfridges has an interesting look as well, however, Harvey Nichols is still more posh than the latter.

In terms of the product offering, many customers feel that Harrods has the largest product choice among the three companies. However, Harvey Nichols stands out because of its unique product selections. One is likely to find the goods sold at Harrods or Selfridges in any other part of town. On the other hand, if one is looking for unique items, then Harvey Nichols is the department store of choice. Harvey has exclusive rights to sell certain product labels, and this gives it an edge over its other competitors. Top-end consumers are attracted to unique products even if they have to pay a premium for them. As a result, one may conclude that Harvey Nichols is better suited to meet the needs of its target market segment that the other two rivals combined. The items stocked at Harvey are deliberately selected because of their rarity in London. Some of the hottest fashion items are found in this department store. The company stocks products from key designers in the fashion industry. In order to give it an edge, the company also displays pieces from emerging designers. La Perla is one of the key labels that customers can get to enjoy from Harvey Nichols. This brand is responsible for the supply of lingerie, perfume and other accessories (Harvey Nichols, 2012). Most of the products go for relatively high prices because of their exclusivity. More often than not, Harvey Nichols is innovative about its product choices.Critics of Harvey Nichols claim that there is less to be found in this store as it is slightly smaller than the competing entities. However, the products have already been edited. It is possible to be confronted by too much choice as a shopper. Therefore, it helps when a retailer does the job for clients by looking for the most appropriate or fashionable items. Harvey Nichols takes the cup in terms of its knack for contemporary fashion, and this was the purpose of establishing the departmental store in the first place.

Customers looking for speciality products will be especially pleased with Harvey Nichols’ offerings. The company has a unique bag and shoe collection. Additionally, its accessories are top of the range. While Harrods and Selfridges already possess these items, most of them will not be as top-notch as Harvey. Females are particularly choosy about the kind of shoes, bags and accessories they purchase. Furthermore, because the target market is high-end, then the concerned organisation must invest heavily in their stock. Harvey has done a better job of investing in diversity than its competitors.

Harvey Nichols is always proactive when it comes to management of its business portfolio. It is constantly thinking of new ways of reaching its target consumers and getting them to keep coming back to the store (Bokaie 15). This objective has been achieved through strong leadership and management structures. The organisation has an unpretentious group CEO known as Joseph Wan. The latter individual often relies on the astute business skills of Dickson Poon; a majority shareholder. These leaders will not waste resources on exuberant interior decorating for their premises. Instead, they often use their earnings to improve the store. Unfortunately, rival Harrods cannot boast about the same advantage. Its management has been in turmoil, especially after the controversy surrounding its sale to Qatar investors. Their leader Mohamed Al Fayed was one of the most controversial leaders in retail. He often talked ill of the British establishment as well as his trustees in public. Some of his business decisions were counterproductive to the success of the store. Therefore, customers would be better off taking their business to a well-managed enterprise like Harvey, instead of establishing a relationship with a firm whose future is uncertain.

The in-store atmosphere at Harvey is more user-friendly than it is at Harrods. The latter store is laden with rules and regulations concerning various dress codes for clients. Individuals are not allowed to enter if they look excessively sweaty or they have bare feet. No sandals and flip flops are allowed. Additionally, persons wearing cycling shorts or beach wear cannot get in. If a person’s clothes look dirty, then the security guards are expected to throw them out. This store turned away celebrity Kate Winslet because they felt that she was not appropriately dressed. Harvey Nichols would not dare turn away such a high-profile customer because of a rigid dress policy. Instead, customers will be welcomed and treated cordially once inside the store. Up-market clientele do not like rules, and it is likely that certain stringent requirements in Harrods are putting them off.

Aside from purchasing products from the store, customers such as Harvey Nichols can get to enjoy one of the best food services in the industry. The store has a restaurant at the top floor that allows customers to unwind while enjoying some of the best food that money can buy. While Harrods and Selfridges also have restaurants within their facilities, none of them can boast about being initiated by the company CEO. A range of them are run by separate group entities and do not match group objectives of Selfridges or Harrods. Restaurants at Harrods are designed to meet the needs of small –ticket purchasers. Many of them will leave the location without bothering about the core products sold at the store. Conversely, Harvey’s CEO cleverly devised a mechanism that would keep customers coming back to the store. He hired a chef from Hong Kong and another one from a famous restaurant in London. They were required to serve high quality food with the help of properly selected and well-trained staff. Up-market food is combined with up-market fashion in order to make the retailer an excellent service provider to this market segment. Harrods and Selfridges do not have the same degree of freedom that Harvey Nichols does in terms of movement of restaurants, as their food outlets are protected by law.

Harrods has often been associated with the tourist market. During the high season, tourists will flock every aisle or space inside the store (Bennet & Cameron, 2000). Most of them will wonder around the mall in order to see what is on offer. Furthermore, because Harrods has such a large space, then several clients will crowd the location during the weekend. The major problem with tourists is they rarely buy big ticket items; this hampers the high-end consumer who wants to enjoy his shopping experience without worrying about all the pushing and shoving. In certain scenarios, it can be difficult to even browse through Selfridges or Harrods and get something from the store. Therefore, high end consumers prefer a tranquil and peaceful place such as Harvey Nichols. People do not enter the store to sight see; they go there to purchase items. On the other hand, Selfridges also hosts a range of tourists as its clientele. Many Chinese buyers will queue outside its stores in order to get a taste of their offerings. This minimises the number of local clients who frequent the store. Furthermore, it alienates the high end consumer who would not want to be seen in a crowded location.

The proliferation of Harrods products is hurting their luxury brand. Harrods large size makes it tough to balance the needs of locals and tourists. Additionally, the company’s marketing strategies have often been quite counterproductive. For instance, it opted to place its logo on certain products like teddy bears. This made many individuals question the upmarket nature of the brand. Harrods made claims that it was merely promoting the company among tourists, but such a strategy is enough to worry any high-end consumer about what the label represents. Harvey Nichols does not send such mixed messages to its clientele. In most cases, if one purchases a certain item from the store, one can be sure that what they are getting is not part of the mass market.

Customer service at Harvey Nichols is more satisfactory than it is at Harrods or Selfridges. Staff members will approach clients in a non imposing way and offer to help. Therefore, one can get assistance if one requires information about a certain product. The same is not true for workers at Harrods as well as Selfridges. Part of the low customer service stems from the frantic nature of the environment at Harrods and Selfridges. It also emanated from the high customer to employee ratio at these stores. High end consumers want personalised services from staff members who do not seem overwhelmed by their presence. As a result, customers are likely to approach Harvey for such services.

The prices of commodities at all three department stores are not regarded as mainstream. However, some individuals claim that it is possible to get reasonably priced ladies or menswear at Selfridges as well as Harrods. In fact, many critics of Harvey Nichols use this aspect as an excuse for staying away from the department store. However, what these critics do not realise is that the products are rare and therefore more valuable. Additionally, a customer does not just pay for the product when buying an item; one must consider the service, ambience as well as other qualities that make the product easily accessible to a buyer (Whitaker, 2011). Sometimes prices will be lower at Harvey Nichols than at the other rival stores owing to the company’s tendency to offer sales. Therefore, prices can be friendly depending on the time of year that one decides to do one’s shopping.

The manner in which the store is designed makes it quite suitable for that individual who does not want to spend too much time on non-value adding activities. At Harrods or Selfridges, during the festive season, one can waste close to an hour trying to navigate the store. This emanates from the sheer sizes of the latter stores. It may be necessary for clients to ask for direction or use the help of a friend who has already been to the store. However, the same is not true for Harvey Nichols. It is relatively easy to move from location to location without directions. Therefore, one spends more time doing value adding activities and buying what one wants.

Harvey Nichols has been opening more stores around the UK than its rivals Selfridges and Harrods. Consequently, it has become relatively easy to locate some of its products. This high level of convenience is likely to make the retailer a place of choice for most purchasers. Harrods has decided to hold on the expansion of its stores because it has reached a plateau phase. Additionally, the same may be said about the expansion of Selfridges, which currently wants to focus only on improvement of the stores within. Many clients often find comfort in a brand’s future; if it seems secure, then they will be willing to partner with the firm than if it is not growing at all.

Harvey Nichols can boast of an international presence that the other organisations cannot. This approach in business assists Londoners who visit those foreign countries to look for the same kind of service that they came to expect from their home brands. Alternatively, it also assists the organisation to learn from other branches and boost its services across the board. Harvey Nichols has a presence in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, it also has stores in Indonesia, as well as Kuwait. There is a lot of marketability that comes with such wide reach. Harrods and its rival do not have an international network that is as wide as Harvey’s. Most of them are working on establishing new stores in international locations like China, but this is yet to be done.


Harvey Nichols is better suited to the upmarket segment than its main rivals –Harrods and Selfridges. The store’s design is trendy and attractive while the rivals have a more plain design. Its product offerings are unique and hard to find in other stores. Furthermore, the company possess speciality products. Harrods and Selfridges have general products that can be found elsewhere. Harvey Nichols has stable leadership and managerial structures thus making it lucrative for a long term partnership with clients. Unlike Harrods and Selfridges, which are often crowded and packed with tourists, Harvey has more space to shop. Additionally, its size is just enough for one to get what they require without getting lost. Some clients have gotten lost at Harrods owing to its size. The company has superior customer service, compared to its rivals. Its international presence and continual expansion indicate that the firm is worth investing in, in the future. These qualities make Harvey Nichols more suitable to meet the needs of its target market than the other two department stores.


Bennet, C. & Cameron, C. (2000). Behind the scenes at Harrods. London: Andre Deutsch.

Blackhurst, C. (2001). . Web.

Bokaie, J (2008). . Web.

Harvey Nichols (2012). . Web.

Whitaker, J. (2011).The World of Department Stores. New York: The Vedome Press, 2011.

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