Blog > Shopping in London: Harrods An Icon Of London

March 5, 2013

Harrods of London is one of the most upscale department stores in the history of London.  It is located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge. To reach Harrods from Safestay Hostel you will need to walk to the Underground at Elephant and Castle.  Take the Bakerloo Line towards Harrow and Wealdstone. 

You will then need to walk to Piccadilly Circus to take the Piccadilly Line towards Uxbridge.  At Knightsbridge it is a 4 minute walk to Harrods.  Total travel time is about a half an hour.

The department store has been part of the history of London since the flagship outlet opened in 1834.  Harrods occupies a 5 acre site (20,000 m2) and has over one million square feet (90,000 m2) of retail space.  It is twice the size of Selfridges on Oxford Street.

With 330 departments Harrods is not only the largest department store in the United Kingdom but in Europe as well.  KaDeWe in Berlin is Europe's second largest and has a retail space of only 650,000 square feet (60,000 m2).

Several departments of Harrods are not just famous in London but throughout the world.  These would include the seasonal Christmas department and of course the Food Hall.  Harrods is easily one of the top tourist attractions in London.

The motto of the store is Omnia Omnibus Ubique which is Latin for “All Things for All People, Everywhere.

The store founded by Charles Henry Harrod began as a wholesale grocery store with a fine collection of tea.  In 1849 the founder moved the store to its present site so it would no longer be in the inner city.

Harrods began as a single room with two assistants and a messenger boy.  The son of the founder would soon expand the store so much that by 1880 it had over one hundred employees.  He had turned it into a thriving retail operation with a variety of merchandise for sale.

A fire would burn the complex down in December of 1883 but a new building would rise on the site in short order.  Christmas deliveries to customers that year were still filled and allowed the store to set a record profit in the process.

Soon the store was extending credit to its best and most famous customers that would include writers, actors and many members of the British Royal Family and aristocracy.

In 1898 Harrod's debuted Britain's first escalator known at the time as a moving staircase. It was reported that anxious customers would be offered brandy after the ordeal to steady their nerves.

 

 

 

The store was sold to the Fayed brothers in 1985 for 615 million pounds. It was then sold toQatar Holdings in 2010.

Harrods is now part of the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Qatar.

 It was sold for 1.5 billion pounds. Its revenues as of 2010 were approximately 635 million pounds annually.

In 2012 the figurative sculptures that were to be found in the Food Hall were sold. This famous configuration included 2 mermaids supporting a giant clam, stag and boar. They were shown under an English oak tree.  The sale although controversial is seen by the store as part of their modernization plan.

It is said you can find whatever you are looking for somewhere on the grounds of Harrods.  For example, there are 32 restaurants on the premises offering a wide variety of cuisine. Everything from sushi to high tea can be found at the store.

One can also have a personal shopping experience through the “By Appointment” program.  This is where an individual receives assistance from a sales supporter throughout their shopping time at the store.

In 2009 Harrods began to sell gold bars and coins to customers right off the shelf.

Harrods was a holder of royal warrants which enabled the store to advertise the fact that a number of items for sale are used by members of the Royal Family.

The previous owner Al-Fayed claimed he had burnt the warrants seen by many for superstitious reasons in the year 2000.  The store had held such warrants for 90 years.

There are two memorials inside the store.  One is to commemorate the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed the son of the owner at the time.  This was unveiled in 1998.  The other memorial was set up in 2005 to celebrate the relationship between the pair.

Harrods does have a dress code and it has been in force since 1989. However, most outfits and dress styles are accepted. Most people that are refused entry are individuals displaying too much skin, improper footwear, or are wearing dirty clothing.

More recently Harrods has come under criticism for still selling real animal fur.  It is the only department store in the United Kingdom that still does. 

If a visitor to London wants an unforgettable shopping experience a visit to Harrods is a must.

With 5,000 employees from over 50 different countries you are certain to find someone who can help you locate that one of a kind item you might be searching for.  On peak days up to 300,000 customers will visit the store. Harrods has the highest proportion of customers from non-English speaking countries of any department store in London.   If you are not really into shopping or the prices are out of reach it is still a worthwhile tourist activity for almost anyone.