Founded in the 19th century as a family tea and grocery shop, the Harrods department store has grown into a globally recognized brand. By selling celebrity products, food, and every household good you may think, Harrods has become one of the largest department stores, maintaining its signature green bag. The journey was not a smooth sailing in Knightsbridge when the store was being established as it may look now.
Founding of the Store
The store was founded by Charles Henry Harrod in 1849 in Knightsbridge. It began as a single room with one messenger and two assistants. The store thrived steadily expanding to small departments that sold medicines, clothing, and perfume. However, in 1883, the expansion came to a cold halt after a fire blazed down the store leading to relocation to the opposite hall, the today’s Royal Lancaster London Hotel. Architect Charles William helped expedite the rebuilding process to what the store looks like today. The new store featured palatial style with baroque dome, Art Noveau windows, and terracotta tiles with cherubs.
Becoming a Public Company- Achieving Success!
In 1889, Harrods became a public company offering new products. It established a bank and estate agency as one of its expansion milestones. In 1890, a new department selling exotic pets was introduced. However, the department was closed in 1970 due to legal issues concerning sale of pets. It introduced one of the first world escalators in 1898. The company sold parachutes, uniforms, and some of Lancaster bombers during the World War II. The Harrods was sold to the House of Fraser, a High Street department store, in 1959.
Bitter Feud- Ultimate Battle of Ownership
An Egyptian businessman, Mr Al Fayed, merged efforts with his brother and bought the House of Fraser for £615m in 1985. A mining company, Lonrho, was not happy as a close contender and took matters to the Department of Trade to bar Al Fayed from owning the store. Al Fayed was accused Al Fayed of lying about his wealth status and source of money. The battle went on for years and reconciliation was reached in 1993 recognizing Al Fayed as the legal owner.
Bomb Attacks- Introduction of New Dress Code
In 1983 and 1993, two bombs attacks were successfully launched by the IRA leading to the death of six people and 79 casualties in total. Consequently, Al Fayed banned people from wearing beach shorts, swimwear, cycling shorts, and thong sandals in the store. In 1994, the House of Fraser was liquidated keeping only the Harrods stores. The Harrods had strongly expanded by 2000 and acquired outlets on the QE2 cruise ships and at the airports.
The Modern Harrods Design- Al Fayed Final Touches
Al Fayed added personal touches to the interior design of the store in Knightsbridge to give it the modern stylish decor. Following the death of his son Dodi and Diana, the Princess of Wales, Al Fayed built an Egyptian memorial room in the store. Al Fayed withdrew his royal warrants of the queen’s family claiming that neither Prince Charles nor Queen Elizabeth had shopped in Harrods for many years. Currently, the store has over 4,000 employees and Air Harrods aircraft charter services.