My Year of Change: 2011
Joseph Addison once said ‘he who hesitates is lost’. Last year, I bade farewell to Harrods and I have not stood still since.
I have campaigned against an incinerator in Scotland and a quarry in Surrey; seen baby twins conjoined at the head have life-changing surgery after flying them from Sudan to Great Ormond Street Hospital; been honoured for my contribution to sport and cinema with a prestigious Italian award; re-entered the world of fashion as Chairman of online luxury retailer, Cocosa; and seen some exciting changes begin to take shape at Fulham and The Paris Ritz hotel.
The Paris Ritz was a place I had dreamt of owning as a child and in 1979, my dream came true. I spent the equivalent of $1 million per room restoring this magnificent Parisian treasure, and next year I will be pulling out all the stops to do it again.
Msr. Ritz was never content to rest upon his reputation for excellence, always looking for new ways to please his customers. I intend to see that his historic hotel is reborn in a fashion that he would applaud. When the work is complete, The Ritz will be a hotel like no other. It will give people an experience they will cherish forever. Step through its doors, and you will enter a new but familiar world of magic, majesty and romance.
Creating amazing experiences is something I have always strived to do. My Club, Fulham FC, is blessed with a fabulous riverside location. Its views extend along the Thames and across to Putney, but have always been closed to the public. Next year, if we get planning permission, I will be transforming the stadium and the overall experience for fans at Fulham, making seating more comfortable, dining more diverse, queuing less congested, and I shall be opening up the riverside walkway for everyone to enjoy.
The Club itself has had a good season, despite our disappointing result against Odense. Martin Jol took us to victory over Liverpool, and we drew against Arsenal at the Emirates and against Manchester City at home. Martin now has the chance to thoroughly prepare the boys for the league and the FA Cup. I know he will do it; I have every faith in him and the team, and with the Club becoming more accessible to fans physically and online, 2012 will be one to remember!
The future of retail is online; of that I have no doubt. In July I saw an opportunity to buy a discount luxury retailer called Cocosa, and I grabbed it with both hands. I had always loved the sales at Harrods, where thousands of people who couldn’t usually afford to shop there, could snap up clothes they’d seen in their favourite style magazines. At Harrods, the sales only came twice a year. At Cocosa they come every day.
I am thrilled to be able to make luxury more accessible by selling sought-after brands like Michael Kors, Asprey and Milly, at nearly cost price and giving people the chance to own the clothes of their dreams; clothes that, usually, they may not have been able to afford. I have been pleased with the reaction Cocosa has received too: our sales are now so popular, we plan to make them available to more of Europe, Australia and America next year, and I will soon broaden the range of products by offering cosmetics and perfumes too. Cocosa will become an online mecca for everyone.
2011 was always going to be a year that focused on things close to my heart, like my family and my charity, the Al Fayed Charitable Foundation. I have watched proudly as my youngest daughter Camilla has been taking greater responsibility for the charity and its work, particularly with her work at West Heath School for traumatised children, and Lawnfest, the fundraising festival she organises to raise money for the school. Thanks to Camilla, more very sick, impoverished and traumatised children have been supported by us. She has also launched our own website – the-acf.com.
But perhaps my greatest highlight has been spending more time with my children and grandchildren. Quality family time is a rare commodity these days, but it shouldn’t be. I hope that this festive season, you will enjoy some time with your family; and please spare a thought for those facing difficulties, particularly those with children who are not expected to reach adulthood.
The Text Santa campaign to help the UK’s hospices is a great one. If you can support it, or would like to support one of the causes I support please do. In the meantime, I wish you all a very healthy and happy Christmas, and hope that your dreams come true in 2012.