Britain’s best-known department store is in the midst of a massive £250 million refurbishment.
Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods, has already overseen a string of dramatic changes, from multi- million-pound designer escalators to a coruscating chandelier for the store’s rear foyer by renowned glass designer Dale Chihuly. A seven figure sum is reputed to have been spent on the elaborate light fitting.
Ward is keen to defend Harrods not just against the legitimate competition, but also against the conmen of the internet. Like all luxury-brand businesses, Harrods is concerned by the booming online trade in forged prestige items, from handbags to watches.
‘Take any internet search engine, type in a fake brand and you will get results. That is totally unacceptable,’ declared Ward, who wants to see stronger action from the authorities and the internet industry on the issue.
‘We don’t ask for subsidies. But there are certain things we do ask for, such as the protection of intellectual property and a level playing field in the digital arena. If you speak to any of the service providers they will wash their hands and say, “Ah, but we’re only a search engine and we can’t do anything about this”. It’s irresponsible,’ he said.
Ward was in Strasbourg last week discussing the issues of counterfeiting with policy makers and other luxury brands. ‘All these companies making vast profits in overseas tax havens have the resources to do something about this. They should be penalised or legislated against to encourage them to act,’ he said.
Others, too, are concerned and are taking steps to stamp out the counterfeit threat. Last week an agreement between eBay and LVMH, the owner of luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy, settled a legal dispute between the two corporate giants and provided a small victory for prestige brands to protect their intellectual property.
Neil Craven, Financial Mail on Sunday, 20 July 2014
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