What does a retailer's web site accomplish if it cannot conduct retail sales online? Harrods department store has answered this riddle in two ways. First, www.harrods.com promises disappointed web-shoppers that an e-commerce service is coming sooner or later.
Meanwhile, it has turned the site into a sidewalk barker whose extravagant sandwich board urges visitors - in the words of Chairman Al Fayed - to 'move on from a virtual tour (of the store) to the real thing'.
To entice surfers to drop their mouse and head for Knightsbridge, the Harrods site deploys sophisticated techniques that give visitors 'spectacular panoramic views' of its various departments, in an interface that is a model of elegant simplicity. Alas, the site accompanies these crisp images with some of the most breathlessly overblown, repellently self-bedazzled text to be found anywhere in cyberspace.