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It's all about the Build: Sam Reid

Harrods is a hive of activity even when the store is closed. It is constantly evolving and changing with new projects starting all the time. Harrods has been on the Masterplan journey for a few years now and the pace has not slowed down because of Coronavirus. We spoke to Sam Reid (Senior Project Manager) to find out more. 

Hi Sam, tell us a little bit about your career journey and role at Harrods. 
I joined Harrods in January 2019 as a Building Services Project Manager in the Store Development Team and was promoted a year later to a Senior Project Manager role. This role means that I am responsible for all new building services installations in store. Any time you have seen hoardings around the store it will be one of our projects running behind them. I’ve been involved in over 250,000 square feet of retail development inside the store (that’s about as much as two Trafalgar Squares) as well as H Beauty, H Café and the Outlet. 

People are drawn towards the retail space when everything is finished; I can understand this but so much of the work the team does is hidden away; we aren’t just changing the layout and order of the store for customers; we’re also focusing on upgrading the buildings aged infrastructure. We’re making changes all over the store including; Electrical Distribution, Mechanical Cooling Sytems, Building Management Systems and Fire & Sprinkler systems. I find that most people only notice these when they go wrong! 

What else does the Store Development Team do? 
The Store Development team is built up of 15 people from a range of backgrounds, including architects, chartered surveyors and me, an engineer. The team also have a team of Duty Managers that work to ensure the day-to-day construction doesn’t impact our customer’s retail experiences.  Lockdown has made this last part much easier. 

In the past year, the team has managed over 300,000 square ft of new retail space within Knightsbridge and H-Beauty in Lakeside and soon, Milton Keynes.  We have developed these spaces as part of the masterplan. Alongside the Masterplan projects, the team works with hundreds of our brands' installations each year.  These range from small displays up to entire rooms like Louis Vuitton and Chanel to less glamorous office moves around the business.  

These can be very challenging projects and the team do an incredible job to manage those relationships. We couldn’t complete the work we do without our external Consultants and Construction partners. Many of whom have worked with Harrods for years or even decades and have as much love and respect for the building as our colleagues do. 

What are the projects you are currently working on and what is coming up next? 
There are always new projects on the horizon; 2021 is going to be a busy year.

While covid has slowed down some of our development plans the business is still committed to investing in the future of the store. Due to its size, the development of our Knightsbridge store is like painting the Forth Bridge, once we finish, it will be time to start again. 

How has Covid-19 impacted you and the team? 
Construction was one of the industries that were able to continue despite the ongoing restrictions. With the store being closed we were able to make significant progress on the Masterplan with minimal disruption to the retail operations.  

In order to reopen our construction sites last year, the team had planned and implement our Covid Safe Strategy. This involved working closely with each of our contractors to ensure their sites met the government’s guidelines. During the past year, we received multiple routine visits from the HSE whose feedback has been positive about our site management throughout, which has been a credit to all parties involved.  

Covid has meant the store had to remain shut, it has allowed us more freedom to speed up our construction. Hopefully, the new spaces will be a great platform to launch from when we are allowed to reopen for customers. 

What are the biggest challenges of working at Harrods? 
My biggest challenge was getting to understand the building and its systems. Everything about the building is unique as it has been in constant development throughout its 150-year history. Piecing that history together can be very challenging and often means reviewing very old drawings and documents. We get it right most of the time, although sometimes we will find a stray pipe and cause an occasional water leak.  

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do in your role? 
During my time with Harrods, I have probably been inside 98% of the rooms in the building (there are a lot more than people realise) - I’m hoping to get that last 2% soon. Climbing around in the crawl spaces beneath the Fresh hall was an interesting experience.

One experience that sticks in my mind the most was clearing out a brands stockroom during a sprinkler leak. I can’t say it was a fun experience but it had to be done. I don’t think anyone has ever had to move so many expensive products, so quickly. That is what I love about working at Harrods; you never know what the store is going to throw at you every day can be an adventure. 

What does the art of the possible mean to you? 
The final week of some of our projects has shown me what Art of the Possible really is. It’s quite amazing how much can change in just one week. Beauty projects seem to get the biggest pressure as they often have hard deadlines for press launches. When we finished the Beauty Hall in Knightsbridge we were removing ladders from site as customers started to come in.  It was a really close call, but the team did amazingly to finish on time. 

What is your uniquely you? 
Before Harrods, I worked in heavy industrial engineering which gave me the opportunity to work across Europe, the USA and India. I’m still not sure how I managed to move from that to the most Luxurious shop in the world!  

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