Similar to red telephone boxes, the Houses of Parliament and Camden market, when one mentions Harrods, images of quintessential London immediately spring to mind. Occupying a five- acre site on Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, Harrods is the biggest department store in Europe.
Whilst the store’s motto in its early years was “All things for all people, everywhere,” nowadays the store is considered the epitome of upmarket and luxury retail and it is highly likely that not “all people” can afford to shop there.
Charles Henry Harrod and son
In 1824 Charles Henry Harrod started the Harrods business as a draper but within six years he had switched to the grocery trade. After moving around through various premises, the young entrepreneur finally located in Brompton Street.
Charles’ son, Charles Digby Harrod, later took over the business and branched into different products, ranging from medicines, perfumes and stationary. The store went from strength to strength and by 1880 Harrods employed more than 100 people.
A devastating fire burnt the store down to the ground in 1883 but this did not stop Charles Harrod junior from fulfilling all of his Christmas order commitments and making a record profit at the same time.
In 1893 England’s first escalator was built in the innovative and entrepreneurial Harrods and any shoppers who used the escalator were revived with glass of brandy at the top!
The Al-Fayed years
In 1985 the flamboyant and often outspoken Mohammad Al-Fayed bought Harrods and as a consequence of the purchase the store quickly become synonymous with luxury and wealth and has rarely been out of the public eye.
When Al-Fayad’s son, Dodi, was tragically killed alongside Princess Diana in a horrific car crash in 1996, the Harrods owner made his belief known that the couple had been assassinated by the Royal Family. As a result of such accusations the Queen stopped buying Harrods Christmas puddings from the store, in exchange for a more than half-price equivalent from Tesco.
In 2010 Mohamed Al Fayed sold Harrods to the state of Qatar for around £1.5 million.
Today Harrods store in Knightsbridge occupies a whopping 4.5 acre site. It attracts a multi-cultural crowd of consumers, although interestingly, the Chinese far outnumber all other nationalities of Harrods shoppers.
From selling gold bars off the shelf to launching multifarious digital ecommerce campaigns, continuing its pioneering and entrepreneurial foundations, contemporary Harrods remains a beacon of innovation.