Harrods is known throughout the world for being synonymous with high-end shopping and the luxurious side of London. From humble beginnings to the powerful palace of purchasing that graces the Knightsbridge high street today, what more is there need to know about the renowned department store?
Britain’s Prominent Luxury Department Store
While you’ll likely be able to name major department stores in other parts of the world, such as New York’s Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, there aren’t many in the UK that we’d define as household names. That is, of course, except Harrods. Harrods is a 330 department shop in London’s centre which is spread out across 5 acres of land. At almost one million square feet, the shop has played host to billions of patrons over its 184-year history.
On the busiest days of the year, Harrods welcomes 300,000 customers through its doors, the vast majority of whom don’t speak English. If you’re visiting one of our hotels near Gloucester Road Station but don’t speak much English, head to Harrods; they employ more than 5,000 staff from over 50 countries to greet and serve customers when needed.
A Family Business
It’s hard to believe, but the now world-famous shopping empire was once a humble family business started by one man. Back in 1824, Charles Henry Harrods opened his first shop at the age of 25. At that time the shop was listed as a draper, haberdashery and mercer, and Harrods teamed up with an associate named Wicking in a partnership which lasted just a few months.
Thanks to good business sense, Harrods opened a greengrocers in 1834 in the East End of London, just a short distance away from our hotel in Kensington, specialising in exotic exports such as tea. Harrods was inspired by the developments made in preparation for the Great Exhibition which was to occur in 1851, and so resolved to move his business to an area near Hyde Park in 1849. His son, Charles Digby Harrods took over the business soon after.
Rags to Riches
When the younger Charles Harrods took over, Harrods was a one-room store in Knightsbridge, with only three employees. From this position Harrods built on his father’s business model, choosing to increase products offered to include perfumes, medicines and stationery as well as haberdashery and groceries.
As with most success stories, the history of Harrods isn’t without its setbacks. On the 6th of December 1883, a fire gutted the shop, burning it to the ground. Despite this, Harrods still managed to deliver clients’ orders in time for Christmas, promoting goodwill among customers.
Harrods at Christmas
Speaking of Christmas, no trip to our Kensington Hotel in London during the festive season would be complete without a visit to Harrods. London at Christmas time is already one of the prettiest sights to behold, but during the festive season, Harrods covers the outside of its building with sparkling fairy lights, lighting up the whole street, and giving it an indescribable dreamlike atmosphere.
The inside of Harrods is always beautifully and ornately decorated too, and you can take home your own piece of the magic in the form of one of Harrods’ signature Christmas tree baubles.