Harrods appears to be on track for another record year of sales and profits after overseas visitors continued to spend freely at the landmark London emporium.
The Knightsbridge department store said its sales so far in the crucial month of December were ahead of last year. This suggests it will surge past the £1 billion-plus sales it delivered for the first time in the year to January 29, under its new owners.
Qatar Holding, the investment fund of the emirate's royal family, acquired Harrods for £1.5 billion last year.
Michael Ward, the managing director of Harrods, said, "The luxury market continues to be very strong," citing positive underlying sales this month. He declined to be drawn on figures, but said: "We are showing growth on the year so technically we will be better than the £1 billion last year."
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This bodes well for Harrods' bottom line following its record pre-tax profits, before exceptional items, of £108.3 million in 2010-11.
Chinese visitors to Harrods have increased again this year, making them the biggest contingent beyond the British. "There has been a continued drift towards luxury among international shoppers." But Ward also cited traffic from the oil-rich countries of Africa, such as Nigeria, and Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. But he criticised visa restrictions that the UK Government placed on overseas visitors, such as Chinese and Russians.
In terms of products, he said: "People are buying classic pieces and timeless luxury ... and the big brands continue to win, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior." Harrods has also enjoyed storming sales of Christmas hampers at £500 ($1000) or more.