Imagine a department store that attracts over 15 million visitors each year! That’s Harrods in Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London. The store is famous all over the world for its amazing mix of both luxury goods and everyday items.
One of the largest stores in the world, it is a tourist destination in itself, occupying over 90,000 square feet. It is currently owned by the royal family of Qatar. The previous owner was Mohammed Al Fayed, who sold it to them in 2010 for £1.5 billion.
More Than 150 Years Old (and counting!)
Started in 1849, the store has a long history. The founder who gave his name to this landmark was Charles Henry Harrod. It was just one room at the start and had a total staff of two assistants and one messenger boy to handle its inventory of teas and groceries.
In 1861 Harrod’s son, Charles Digby Harrod, enlarged and transformed the shop. Over the next three decades, it became the major department store that shoppers currently know and love. By 1880, more than 100 people worked in departments as diverse as perfume, medicine and clothing.
The store bought out the owners of adjoining lots to accommodate the new merchandise. The wealthy patronized Harrods because they knew they could always find what they needed.
Bigger and Better
A major calamity happened in 1883 when fire demolished the store. Charles Harrod decided to rebuild and expand once again. He handled the situation with aplomb, sending out letters to each customer explaining that their orders were delayed due to fire, but would be sent shortly.
The result was a year of record sales and profit. Charles hired architect Charles William Stephens to expand the store and rebuild on a grand scale.
Ordeal by Escalator
In 1898 the store attracted the attention of shoppers with the installation of one of the first escalators seen in London. Many shoppers were worried about this new high-tech way of getting from floor-to-floor.
Charles came up with a way to keep them calm and give them an incentive to try it out. He had staff at the top of the escalator ready with a glass of brandy. They gave these to shoppers as they got off after what was referred to as their “ordeal.”
If you’ve never been to this shopping mecca in the heart of London, you’re in for a treat. Enjoy the beautiful decorations, luxurious surroundings and amazing range of goods. Whether you buy or not, Harrods should be on the itinerary for every visitor.