|The Roja Dove Haute Perfumerie photographed in July 2014,|
a few weeks before its transformation
If there's one reason for the enduring success of Harrods, it's the fact that the people who run it - whoever they may be at any given time - never rest on their laurels. There's nearly always something changing or being upgraded at the store, be it the escalators, the eateries or the location of the various departments. Following on from their extensive refurbishment of the Black Hall on the ground floor - one of London's top perfume-shopping destinations - current owners, Qatar Holdings, have just announced the imminent arrival of what promises to be a major addition to the city's fragrance scene: the Salon De Parfums.
At the moment, precise details about the scheme are scarce, but it has been confirmed that the Salon will occupy over 5000 square feet (approx. 450 square metres) of the 6th floor - it will, effectively, be housed within the Harrods dome - and that it will consist of individual fragrance boutiques designed for some of the world's most high-profile brands. These will include Guerlain, Dior and Chanel, as well as Tom Ford, Creed, By Kilian, Clive Christian, Xerjoff and Bond No 9. There's also talk of a Dior tea room (no doubt a response to the success of the temporary tea room which was created for a recent Dior exhibition at the store).
Many of you will, of course, be aware that, until now, the upper levels of Harrods have been host to the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, something of a mecca for perfume lovers visiting the city, not least because of the number of UK-exclusives it has long stocked. The emergence of the Salon means that the Haute Parfumerie cannot continue to exist in its current form. It, too, will move up to the 6th floor, but its function will undergo a subtle change. It will, of course, form a showcase for the Roja Parfums range, but it will no longer stock any of the brands which will now have their own boutiques in the Salon (ie Guerlain, Tom Ford, Xerjoff et al). Thankfully, it will still aim to offer wares from other brands: for instance, the likes of Puredistance, Grossmith, MDCI and Arquiste will be available under the Haute Parfumerie banner. New brands will be added to the portfolio too: one of the upcoming acquisitions will be Le Galion.
The decision to create the Salon suggests that perfume remains an important source of revenue for high-end department stores in the UK. Granted, Harrods' original plan for the 6th floor was to turn it into a hotel, but when their application for planning permission was rejected, the Powers That Be immediately turned to fragrance to fill the vacuum. It seems reasonable to suppose that thousands of scentusiasts across the country - and, indeed, the world - will be grateful to them for their decision.
Of course, the demise of the Haute Parfumerie in its current form will be bittersweet. For many people, it marked the site where they plunged into the scented rabbit hole and emerged as card-carrying fragrance fanatics. For almost ten years, it has allowed those of us based in the UK to access brands which would never have made it to these shores without Roja Dove's tenacity. Of course, the HP isn't disappearing completely, but going into its intimate enclosure has always been a very private experience: it involved leaving the hurly burly of the lower floors and entering a much more rarefied atmosphere. It's hard to imagine that it will convey the same sense of privacy and intimacy when placed alongside competing boutiques. Still, if any store can make this idea work, it's Harrods: when the Salon opens at the end of September, it's unlikely to be a disappointment... and I'm sure the cappuccinos at Dior won't be bad either.
[I will continue to keep you updated with any details that emerge about the Salon, in individual posts like this, as well as on my London Perfume Shopping Guide. If you'd like to see the Haute Parfumerie one last time in its current form, then make haste. In about two weeks' time, it's going to shrink and move sideways into the Urban Retreat salon area. Then, a few weeks after that, it will begin its ascent to the dome...]