Harvey Nichols drops Azerbaijan store after split with business partner
Harvey Nichols has pulled out of its first store in Azerbaijan just four months after opening in the oil-rich state widely criticised for human rights abuses.
The seven-floor store in Baku’s Globus Plaza no longer runs under the upmarket department store’s name after a split with licence partner Perfomans, part of a local investment company.
A statement said: “Harvey Nichols has terminated its licence agreement with the operator of the Baku store. Consequently, the Baku store no longer operates under the Harvey Nichols brand.” The retailer said it could not comment further for legal reasons.
The Baku outlet was the department store’s eighth overseas venture, joining others in Turkey, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Dubai. The 110,000 sq ft store was Harvey Nichols’ largest outside London, offering stylists, personal shoppers, restaurants, a beauty hall and more than 500 international designer brands.
At the time of the opening, Harvey Nichols’ chief executive, Stacey Cartwright, said: “This market is fast becoming one of the top luxury retail destinations in the world and we are excited to offer the ultimate in luxury shopping and hospitality to the discerning customer in Baku.”
But trade journal Retail Week reported that Harvey Nichols began moves to exit the store within weeks of opening.
Azerbaijan, formerly part of the Soviet Union, houses a fast-growing market for luxury goods, with Baku home to stores for brands including Dior, Burberry, Armani and Valentino.
Last month the country played host to the inaugural European Games, organised by the European Olympic committee amid protests from human rights organisations over locking up journalists and activists in the buildup.
Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, who inherited his job from his father, a former KGB general, invested a reported £6.5bn in sports venues and infrastructure for the games, but the human rights group Index on Censorship has accused him of using the event to “whitewash” the country’s reputation in the wake of a crackdown on freedom of speech.
Harvey Nichols’ exit from the country comes as it prepares to open a new store in Birmingham on Friday. The 45,000 sq ft store, in the Mailbox shopping centre, is about twice the size of the retailer’s previous Birmingham outlet.