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Harrods Limited
Private company
Industry Retail
Genre Department store
Founded1849;171 years ago (1849)
Founder Charles Henry Harrod
Headquarters87–135 Brompton Road
London, England [1]
ProductsQuality and luxury goods
RevenueIncrease2.svg £2 billion (2017) [2]
Increase2.svg £253.3 million (2017) [2]
Increase2.svg £233.2 million (2017) [2]
Owner Qatar Investment Authority [3]
Number of employees
Increase2.svg ca. 4,000 (2019)
Website www.harrods.com

Harrods is a department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London, England. [4] It is owned by the state of Qatar via its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority. The Harrods brand also applies to other enterprises undertaken by the Harrods group of companies including Harrods Estates, Harrods Aviation and Air Harrods, and formerly to Harrods Buenos Aires, sold by Harrods in 1922 and closed as of 2011. [5]


The store occupies a 5-acre (2 ha) site and has 330 departments covering 1.1 million sq ft (100,000 m2) of retail space. It is one of the largest and most famous department stores in Europe. [6]

The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is Latin for "all things for all people, everywhere". [7] Several of its departments, including the seasonal Christmas department and the food halls, are well known.


Share of the Harrod's Stores Ltd., issued 7 August 1903 Harrods Stores 1903.jpg
Share of the Harrod's Stores Ltd., issued 7 August 1903
Fashion plate of 1909 showing Londoners walking in front of Harrods Harrods 1909.jpg
Fashion plate of 1909 showing Londoners walking in front of Harrods
Back site of a share from 1903 Harrods Stores 1903 Ruckseite .jpg
Back site of a share from 1903

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. [8] [9] [10] During 1825, the business was listed as 'Harrod and Wicking, Linen Drapers, Retail', [11] but this partnership was dissolved at the end of that year. [12] His first grocery business appears to be as 'Harrod & Co. Grocers' at 163 Upper Whitecross Street, Clerkenwell, E.C.1., in 1832. [13]

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. [14]

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. [15] 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. [16] 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.

Qatar Holdings ownership

The Harrods building frontage at night Harrods at Night, London - Nov 2012.jpg
The Harrods building frontage at night

Following denial that it was for sale, Harrods was sold to Qatar Holdings, the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar in May 2010. A fortnight previously, chairman of Harrods since 1985, Mohamed Al-Fayed, had stated that "People approach us from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. Fair enough. But I put two fingers up to them. It is not for sale. This is not Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury's. It is a special place that gives people pleasure. There is only one Mecca." [17]

The sale was concluded in the early hours of 8 May, when Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani came to London to finalise the deal, saying that the acquisition of Harrods would add "much value" to the investment portfolio of Qatar Holdings while his deputy, Hussain Ali Al-Abdulla, called it a "landmark transaction". [16] A spokesman for Mohamed Al-Fayed said "in reaching the decision to retire, [Fayed] wished to ensure that the legacy and traditions that he has built up in Harrods would be continued." [16] Harrods was sold for £1.5 billion; half of the sale will be used to pay bank debts of £625 million. [18]

Al-Fayed later revealed in an interview that he decided to sell Harrods following the difficulty in getting his dividend approved by the trustee of the Harrods pension fund. Al-Fayed said "I'm here every day, I can't take my profit because I have to take a permission of those bloody idiots. I say is this right? Is this logic? Somebody like me? I run a business and I need to take the trustee's permission to take my profit." [19] Al-Fayed was appointed honorary chairman of Harrods, a position he will hold for at least six months. [19] [ when? ]

With the previously operating Disney Cafe and Disney Store, the Disney at Harrods partnership added the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon on 25 November 2013 to those stores. [20]

Significant event timeline

Harrods Furniture Depository in Barnes, London, England Harrods Furniture Depository 7073.jpg
Harrods Furniture Depository in Barnes, London, England

Products and services

The Egyptian-style clothing department at Harrods Harrods' Egyptian room.JPG
The Egyptian-style clothing department at Harrods

The shop's 330 departments offer a wide range of products and services. Products on offer include clothing for women, men, children and infants, electronics, jewellery, sporting gear, bridal trousseau, pet accessories, toys, food and drink, health and beauty items, packaged gifts, stationery, housewares, home appliances, furniture, and much more.

Gentlemen's lavatory in Harrods. Harrods gents IMG 0905.jpg
Gentlemen's lavatory in Harrods.

A representative sample of shop services includes 23 restaurants, serving everything from high tea to tapas to pub food to haute cuisine; a personal shopping-assistance programme known as "By Appointment"; a watch repair service; a tailor; a dispensing pharmacy; a beauty spa and salon; a barbers shop; Ella Jade Bathroom Planning and Design Service; private events planning and catering; food delivery; a wine steward; bespoke picnic hampers and gift boxes; bespoke cakes; bespoke fragrance formulations; and Bespoke Arcades [24] machines.

Up to 300,000 customers visit the shop on peak days, comprising the highest proportion of customers from non-English speaking countries of any department store in London. More than five thousand staff from over fifty different countries work at Harrods.

In October 2009, Harrods Bank started selling gold bars and coins that customers could buy "off the shelf". The gold products ranged from 1 g to 12.5 kg, and could be purchased within Harrods Bank. They also offered storage services, as well as the ability to sell back gold to Harrods in the future. [25]

Royal warrants

Harrods was the holder of royal warrants from:

In August 2010, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph , chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed revealed that he had burnt Harrods royal warrants, after taking them down in 2000. Harrods had held the Royal warrants since 1910. Describing the warrants as a "curse", Al-Fayed claimed that business had tripled since their removal. The Duke of Edinburgh removed his warrant in January 2000, [26] and the other warrants were removed from Harrods by Al-Fayed in December, pending their five-yearly review. The Duke of Edinburgh had been banned from Harrods by Al-Fayed. [27] Film of the burning of the warrants in 2009 was shown in the final scene of Unlawful Killing, a film funded by Al-Fayed and directed by Keith Allen. [26]


Innocent Victims, Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed memorial at Harrods PrincessDiana&DodiFayed.JPG
Innocent Victims , Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed memorial at Harrods

Since the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed, Mohamed Al-Fayed's son, two memorials commissioned by Al-Fayed have been erected inside Harrods to the couple. The first, located at the base of the Egyptian Escalator, was unveiled on 12 April 1998, consisting of photographs of the two behind a pyramid-shaped display that holds a wine glass smudged with lipstick from Diana's last dinner as well as what is described as an engagement ring Dodi purchased the day before they died. [28]

The second memorial, unveiled in 2005 and located by the escalator at door three is entitled Innocent Victims , a bronze statue of the two dancing on a beach beneath the wings of an albatross, a bird said to symbolise the "Holy Spirit". [29] The sculpture was created by William Mitchell, a close friend of Al-Fayed and artistic design advisor to Harrods for 40 years. Al-Fayed said he wanted to keep the pair's "spirit alive" through the statue. [30]

After the death of Michael Jackson, Al-Fayed announced that they had already been discussing plans to build a memorial statue. [31] This was unveiled in April 2011 at the rear of Craven Cottage football ground (Fulham F.C.) but removed in September 2013 on the orders of new club owner Shahid Khan. [32]

Dress code

In 1989, Harrods introduced a dress code for customers. [33] The store turns away people whose dress is not in compliance with the code. Forbidden items include uniforms; cycling shorts; high-cut shorts, Bermuda or beach shorts; swimwear; athletic singlets; flip flops or thong sandals; bare feet; bare midriff; or wearing dirty or unkempt clothing. Patrons found not in compliance with the code and barred from entry include pop star Kylie Minogue, [34] Jason Donovan, [16] Luke Goss, [33] a Scout troop, [35] a woman with a Mohican hair cut, [36] and the entire first team from FC Shakhtar Donetsk who were wearing tracksuits. [37] Conversely, pupils in uniform from nearby notable Hill House School have never been denied entry, and until 2018 were supplied uniforms by Harrods.[ citation needed ]


The store occupies a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site and has over one million square feet (90,000 m2) of selling space in over 330 departments making it the biggest department store in Europe. The UK's second-biggest shop, Selfridges, Oxford Street, is a little over half the size with 540,000 square feet (50,000 m2) of selling space. [38] By comparison Europe's second-largest department store the KaDeWe in Berlin has a retail space of 650,000 square feet (60,000 m2).


Harrods and Mohamed Al-Fayed were criticised for selling real animal fur with regular protests organised outside Harrods. [39] Harrods is the only department store in Britain that has continued to sell fur. [40] Harrods was sharply criticised in 2004 by the Hindu community for marketing a line of feminine underwear (designed by Roberto Cavalli) which featured the images of Indian goddesses. The line was eventually withdrawn and formal apologies were made. [41]

Harrods has been criticised by Guardian journalist Sali Hughes as "deeply sexist" for making female employees wear six kinds of makeup at all times without requiring this of male employees. [42] They have also been criticised after reports came out claiming that Harrods staff told a black woman that she would not be employed unless she chemically straightened her hair, stating that her natural hair style was "unprofessional". [43]

Harrods' restaurants and cafes included a 12.5% discretionary service charge on customers' bills, but failed to share the full proceeds with kitchen and service staff. [44] Several employees joined the UVW union, which claimed that 483 affected employees were losing up to £5,000 each in tips every year. [45] A surprise protest and roadblock organised by the union outside Harrods during the January sales of 2017 was followed by an announcement that "an improved tronc system" would give 100% of service charges to staff. [46]


In 1986, the town of Otorohanga, New Zealand, briefly changed its name to "Harrodsville". This was a protest in support of a restaurateur, Henry Harrod of Palmerston North, who was being forced to change the name of his restaurant following the threat of lawsuits from Mohamed Al Fayed, the then owner of Harrods department store. [47] [48] As a show of solidarity for Henry Harrod, and in anticipation of actions against other similar-sounding businesses, it was proposed that every business in Otorohanga change its name to "Harrods". With the support of the District Council, Otorohanga temporarily changed the town's name to Harrodsville. After being lampooned in the British tabloids, Al Fayed dropped the legal action and Harrodsville and its shops reverted to their former names. The town's response raised widespread media interest around the world, with the BBC World Service and newspapers in Greece, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Canada covering the story.

On 27 October 2008, in the case of Harrods Ltd v. Harrods Limousine Ltd, the Harrods store applied to the Company Names Tribunal under s.69(1)(b) Companies Act 2006 for a change of name of Harrods Limousine Ltd, which had been registered at Companies House since 14 November 2007. The application went un-defended by the respondent and the adjudicator ordered on 16 January 2009 that Harrods Limousine Ltd must change their name within one month. Additionally the respondent was ordered not to cause or permit any steps to be taken to register another company with an offending name which could interfere, due to its similarity, with the goodwill of the applicant. Finally, Harrods Limousine Ltd was ordered to pay Harrods' costs for the litigation. [49]

Miscellaneous stories

Asma al-Assad, the wife of the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, used an alias to shop at Harrods despite economic sanctions imposed by the European Union that froze funds belonging to her and her husband. [50]

In March 2014, a parody story in Middle East satirical website The Pan-Arabia Enquirer claimed that following a dispute among Gulf countries, Harrods' Qatari owners had banned shoppers from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia from entering the store. The article was reported as fact on a cover story in Pakistan's The News International . [51]

See also

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Further reading

Coordinates: 51°29′59″N00°09′49″W / 51.49972°N 0.16361°W / 51.49972; -0.16361