Due to the great growth potential and increasing personal wealth in the Chinese consumer market, London-based luxury department store Harrods will launch its new private members' club in Shanghai at the end of this year, which will be the iconic retailer's first club of its kind in the world, said the company's top executives.
Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods, disclosed the plan in an interview on Friday.
Only 250 members will be accepted to join the private club for the first year. Further divided into three tiers, the minimum membership fee is set at 150,000 yuan ($20,908) annually. People can apply for memberships on a WeChat program which is scheduled to go online on Tuesday, Ward said.
Members of the private club will be provided black tier status at Harrods in London and access to Harrods' services such as aviation, estates and interior design. Classes on wine and art collections will also be provided via the membership.
At present, Harrods' members globally are made up of professionals and self-made high net-worth individuals aged between 30 and 50, of which 55 percent are females.
Ward said that about 16 percent of Harrods' income came from Chinese consumers last year, with growth potential still untapped from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As calculated by market research firm the Yaok Institute, Chinese consumers purchased a total of 956 billion yuan of luxury goods last year, accounting for 38 percent of total global luxury retail sales. Zhou Ting, head of the Yaok Institute, said that Chinese consumers will make 60 percent of luxury purchases this year.
Meanwhile, China was home to 2.11 million families with average household wealth of at least 10 million yuan in 2022, up 2.5 percent from a year prior. The number of ultra-high-net-worth families with more than 100 million yuan in assets increased 3.5 percent year-on-year to 138,000 in 2022, according to Hurun Research Institute.
But Ward said that they will not open a brick-and-mortar store in China, as "there will only be one Harrods", which is located in Knightsbridge, London.
As understood by Ward, the launch of the private club will be an important learning experience for the retailer to discover more business opportunities in China.
A brick-and-mortar club, called Harrods The Residence, will be located in Jing'an district in downtown Shanghai. Highly celebrated British chef Gordon Ramsay will open a restaurant at the club.
As explained by Sarah Myler, director of international business development and communications for Harrods, the private club's positioning is in line with the overall mapping of Jing'an district, which focuses on high-end dining and the introduction of more luxury brands.
According to a report released by global luxury consulting firm Agility Research & Strategy in late November, about 35 percent of Chinese millionaires expect to increase their spending on exclusive memberships over the next six months, overtaking all the other surveyed consumption sectors, such as entertainment, fashionable clothing and skincare.
Founded in 1849, Harrods is now home to more than 3,000 brands and 20 high-end restaurants. In 2010, it was sold to Qatar Holding, the sovereign wealth fund of the Qatari royal family, for a reported $2.2 billion.