On Dec. 4, Peter Harris will be inducted into the FN Hall of Fame (watch the livestream of the FN Achievement Awards here). Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 3 print issue about how the president of Pedder Group has helped decode the demands of consumers throughout his career.
In his 25 years as president of Pedder Group, Peter Harris has come to understand Asia’s multifaceted retail market like few others. But growing up in rural Australia, his initial professional ambitions had nothing to do with the industry.
“I was very academic as a teenager and studied English literature at university,” he recalled. “I wanted to teach — and did, in fact, for one year after graduating. My passion laid in learning.”
A move to London in the mid-1980s changed his plans, however. Harris began working for a high-end footwear store, overseeing buying and merchandising. “I had always enjoyed shopping from a consumer’s perspective, but when I took a deeper dive into retail, I became really taken by it,” he said. “I approached it as a different kind of learning. To me, it was a new formative experience.”
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In the early 1990s, Harris was working in accessories product development in Florence, Italy, when the Lane Crawford Joyce Group asked him to oversee ladies’ footwear and accessories in the company’s department stores. Harris moved to its headquarters in Hong Kong in 1993. “There’s a pulsating energy and a can-do culture [in Hong Kong] that’s hard to find elsewhere,” he said. “It’s a constant source of inspiration.”
Ten years later, the shoe division was spun into an independent firm, Pedder Group, with Harris as president and co-founding member. Under his lead, it has launched two retail concepts — On Pedder and Pedder Red — and brought many of the industry’s biggest names to China and Southeast Asia. It operates over 50 stores and shop-in-shops across five countries and 11 cities, and put footwear at the forefront of the region’s luxury market.
“Peter is the quintessential merchant, with an amazing taste level,” said Tapestry CEO Victor Luis. “He has been a visionary within the China market, truly understanding luxury footwear and how to build brands in the region.”
Nicholas Kirkwood agrees. “Peter is incredibly generous,” he said. “I’ve known him for the last decade, and he’s been a constant source of wisdom and advice. He really has his finger on the pulse of the bigger picture. I like to think of him as an oracle, in a way.”
Focusing on the customer’s experience has been one of Harris’ main successes. Both Pedder Group and Lane Crawford are known for elevating store retail through highly curated displays, personalized service and beautiful store environments.
“Environment is such an important element of the shopping experience,” he said. “So is curation, sourcing, editing. Over the years, and particularly in the last 18 months, that’s what I have most been occupied with: shaping a customer-centric organization that can tell our story in a much bigger and more complete way.”
For many in the industry, Pedder Group is one of the most successful examples of a retailer of the future.
“From product development to commerce, brand development to customers, Peter gets it. He understands every single aspect of the field,” said designer Gianvito Rossi, a long-term acquaintance. “But what I also think makes him worthy of praise is his personability. He is a mentor for his collaborators, an honest businessman and respectful of anyone he deals with, from the most exclusive client to the manufacturer.”
Harris humbly dismissed such praise. “The best parts of my job are the team I work with and the brands I work with,” he said. “I have been lucky enough to be exposed to them and learn from them, too. It’s what I appreciate the most in my career.”
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