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HARRODS DEPARTMENT STORE
LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
STORAGE | ACCESORIES
HISTORY | NOSTALGIA | FASHION
HISTORY OF HARRODS
In 1824, at the age of 25, Charles Henry Harrod established a business
at 228 Borough High Street in Southwark.
He ran this business, variously listed as a draper, mercer, and a haberdasher,
until at least 1831.
During 1825, the business was listed as ‘Harrod and Wicking, Linen Drapers, Retail’,
but this partnership was dissolved at the end of that year.
His first grocery business appears to be as ‘Harrod & Co. Grocers’
at 163 Upper Whitecross Street, Clerkenwell, E.C.1., in 1832.
In 1834, in London’s East End,
he established a wholesale grocery in Stepney at 4 Cable Street
with a special interest in tea.
In 1849, to escape the vice
of the inner city and to capitalise on trade to
the Great Exhibition of 1851 in nearby Hyde Park,
Harrod took over a small shop in the district of Brompton,
on the site of the current store.
Beginning in a single room employing two assistants and a messenger boy,
Harrod’s son Charles Digby Harrod built the business
into a thriving retail operation
selling medicines, perfumes, stationery, fruits and vegetables.
Harrods rapidly expanded, acquired the adjoining buildings,
and employed one hundred people by 1881.
However, the store’s booming fortunes were reversed in early December 1883,
when it burnt to the ground.
Remarkably, Charles Harrod fulfilled all of his commitments to his customers
to make Christmas deliveries that year—
and made a record profit in the process.
In short order, a new building was built on the same site,
and soon Harrods extended credit for the first time to its best customers,
among them Oscar Wilde, Lillie Langtry, Ellen Terry, Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward,
Gertrude Lawrence, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Sigmund Freud,
A. A. Milne, and many members of the British Royal Family.
A chance meeting in London with businessman, Edgar Cohen,
eventually led to Charles Harrod selling his interest in the store for £120,000
via a stock market flotation in 1889.
The new company was called Harrod’s Stores Limited.
Sir Alfred James Newton became chairman and
Richard Burbidge managing director.
Financier William Mendel was appointed to the board in 1891
and he raised funding for many of the business expansion plans.
Richard Burbidge was succeed in 1917 by his son Woodman Burbidge
and he in turn by his son Richard in 1935.
On 16 November 1898,
Harrods debuted England’s first “moving staircase” (escalator)
in their Brompton Road stores;
the device was actually a woven leather conveyor belt-like unit
with a mahogany and “silver plate-glass” balustrade.
Nervous customers were offered brandy at the top to revive them after their ‘ordeal’.
The department store was acquired by House of Fraser in 1959,
which in turn was purchased by the Fayed brothers in 1985.
In 1994, Harrods was moved out of the House of Fraser Group
to remain a private company prior to the group’s relisting
on the London Stock Exchange.
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