When one thinks of prestige and upscale retail in London, Harrods is often the first thing that comes to mind. With a history rich in providing customers the best service and the highest quality, it’s no wonder the store has the reputation it does – one of highest fashion, pricey items, beautiful architecture, and a turbulent environment littered by protests and royalty.
Harrods began in 1824 as a much smaller and simpler version of the great and incredible store it became. Charles Henry Harrod, then twenty-five, opened the first store as a draper, mercer, and haberdasher. He also opened a wholesale grocer around the same time. Harrod then took over a small shop outside of the inner city, the first move that put him ‘above the rest’ in that area. His son, Charles Digby Harrod, built that small business up from two associates to over 100 workers in 1880, quite a number for those times, and turned it into a hopping retail spot, moving on to sell more items such as perfumes, medicine, stationary, and fresh foods.
Remarkably, despite the store being burnt to the ground in December of 1883, Charles still managed to deliver all of his customers’ products to them by Christmas, and even made a huge profit that year. This incredible show of business management and customer appreciation was one of the main events that led to Harrods being the preferred shopping location of several well-known people like: Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin, Sigmund Freud, A. A. Milne, along with several members of the British Royal family. They even began to receive Royal Warrants, allowing them to publicly show that royalty chose them as their shopping destination, certainly one of the reasons their name became synonymous with prestige.
Mohamed Al-Fayed, the chairman of Harrods since 1985, sold the company to Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani in 2010 for £1.5 billion. Today, the shop includes 330 departments, offers a huge range of services, and amasses 300,000 customers a day on their busiest days. With thirty-two restaurants, a beauty spa, a barbers shop, a bank, food delivery, wine service, a bathroom planning and design service, private event catering, and so much more offered to their customers it really is no wonder that Harrods is as popular and famous as they are.