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Forever Green & Gold: Andy Lanaway

Posting date: 10/03/21

Andy Lanaway has been part of the Security Team at Harrods for 41 years. When he joined the business, Jimmy Carter was President of the USA, Abba had just released Super Trooper and John Lennon was assassinated. He’s seen it all and has dedicated himself to Harrods and our customers, meeting celebrities, bringing in new technology and finding love inside our walls.

Before he gets a chance to take a well-earned retirement, he spent some time with us and answered some of our questions.

Andy, 41 years is an amazing achievement. Congratulations! To start with, tell us about your career at Harrods...
It could be a long answer! I joined on January 28th, 1980; starting as a security officer. The ranks and roles have changed over the years and I ended up as Security Operations Manager. In 2016 I became Uniformed Security Coordinator – a new role that gave me a chance to support from the office rather than being on the shop floor. After 36 years on the front line, I think it was time for a change!

I’ve had a huge number of roles and responsibilities over this time. Working in the store for 40 years means that I’ve worked with a lot of people and teams; seeing how the business has grown and changed and being part of our history.

Some things that stick out for me is representing Harrods at two Lord Mayor shows. We dressed up as Green Men and walked alongside the Harrods’ float in the parade.

At one point, we had a large security team at Heathrow and Gatwick Airport which became part of my responsibility; I also helped to set up the security function at our Manchester Airport store which was open for a short time.

Did you have any unusual roles?
When the bomb went off in 1983, our Managing Director at the time announced that the store would open on Monday as normal and spoke out against terrorism. As a precaution, Harrods wanted him to have a company car and driver so he could get around London safely. A police officer from the Met was hired but he couldn’t start for 3 months so I took the role on a temporary basis. I got his new car and I’d drive from my house to his house each morning and drive him to work. He had lots of meetings and engagements all over London. There were a lot of late nights and early mornings, but it was a really enjoyable time. We weren’t open on Sunday’s back then so that was my day where I’d drive around London and work out my routes in the days before sat-nav.

I remember, on the first day I picked him up, opened the backdoor and he sat in the back seat. On the second day I held the door open for him again, but he asked if he could sit in the front. I said, “It’s your car sir!” He’d sit next to me and we’d talk; we got on really well. He was a real gentleman.

What did you do before working at Harrods?

I left school at 15 and became an apprentice butcher at Sainsbury's. I was working behind the scenes but wanted to be out with the customers. I went to another Butchers for 5 years and wasn’t getting job satisfaction; I wanted to do more than sales. I’d always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a police officer but couldn’t do it because I was colour blind. I wanted something professional, exciting, I wanted to help people

Unbeknown to me I had an uncle who worked on the nightshift at Harrods. He told me there was a day shift role. I had a quick call and a short face to face interview; I was sure I didn’t get the job but the next day got a call saying they wanted to hire me!

What is your favourite Harrods’ memory?
There are so many things I’ll take away and cherish. It’s such a unique place to work. We’ve had fires, floods, I’ve chased criminals and welcomed royalty; all inside the store.

I’ve gone from being a 15-year-old working in Sainsbury’s to walking around with celebrities. I even had to stop a young Prince from running out an open door into the road. The opportunity to interact with these people is so rare and so special.

I arranged security for a First Lady of the United States which meant I had to work with the Special Branch and the Secret Service; it’s not something many people get the chance to do. I’ll always remember how large the entourage was to escort her and the children around the store.

The one day I looked forward to each year was the first Saturday in November. Xmas parade day. 1000s of people lined the streets; it was always a magical time. In 2006, Girls Aloud took part in the parade and then held a small concert in the Georgian Restaurant for some competition winners; I was lucky to get my wife and two children in on the front row as I’d helped to manage their security.

On the way out we bumped into our Chairman at the time, he met the family – at the time my daughter had a tube in her nose for some medical tests, and he told me to go to the Harrods doctor for a second opinion who put us in touch with a consultant at Royal Ormand street. I’ve always felt really cared for at Harrods, people are always put first.

What I love about Harrods is that you see things on TV or in the paper and think, “I work there, I’ve met them, I’ve seen that” - it makes you proud.

What has changed since you started at Harrods?
When I first started the store looked a bit tired and outdated. It’s night and day if you compare it to how the store looks and feels now. There was also a real hierarchy in place; a class structure where there were special restaurants for some cardholders and a situation where some people wouldn’t socialise or really talk to each other – that's all changed now, and everyone feels much closer.

The main thing that has changed is technology. There were no computers no mobile phones, not even a two-way radio. You had a pager and if you got a page, you’d call the control room. In 1980 we had a few cameras. Now it's all changed!

One thing that hasn’t really changed is the uniform. You used to get some more gold on your arms and hat as you went through the ranks, but it’s stayed the same.

What advice would you give someone coming to work at Harrods?
If someone said to me, “I want to work at Harrods”. I’d say, “Go for it”. You have to work hard. You have to be committed and loyal, but you get rewarded for it.

You’re treated well, you have great conditions and access to some of the best services. It’s not just about the salary. It’s the environment, the discount and the people, you’re not going to better than anywhere.

I’ve gone from a school leaver at 15 with no qualifications and became a security manager in a store like Harrods. I’d never have guessed I'd have got anywhere near that. It’s given me so much.

I also met my wife at Harrods; she used to work in the cash office, and we got together at a Christmas party on a boat on the Thames. Both my kids have worked at Harrods; my daughter gift wrapping and beachwear, my son in lost property, staff parcels and left luggage; he loved it and did several sales and Christmas roles.

Who would you like to thank?
There are so many people you can thank in the 41 years but really it’s a big thank you to Harrods. It’s been an honour and a privilege to work for such an incredible company and working with some amazing people/ I think our security team is the best there is. A huge thank you to everyone for 41 great years.

I hope we can stay in touch through our Harrods Alumni network, Forever Green & Gold.

Find out more about Harrods Alumni, Forever Green & Gold here