Since the store first opened its doors in 1849, Harrods has always prided itself on a reputation for excellence, that nothing is too much trouble to our customers, and finding the finest-quality merchandise. But this is just part of the Harrods story. The store is much more than a shopping destination, more than just a splendid building. Its story is tied up in the people who have passed through its doors, worked here, written about it and added to its magnificent architecture.
Noël Coward, Sigmund Freud, Oscar Wilde, Queen Mary, AA Milne and Pierce Brosnan have each added their own mark to the store's rich patina – and as each year goes on, Harrods continues to grow, adapt, reassess and reinvent itself to create a new history.
The Harrods story started in 1834 in London’s East End, when founder Charles Henry Harrod set up as a wholesale grocer in Stepney, with a special interest in tea. In 1849, to escape the filth of the inner city – and capitalise on trade to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in nearby Hyde Park – Harrod took over a small shop in the new district of Knightsbridge on the site of the current store. From a single room employing two assistants and a messenger boy, Harrod’s son Charles Digby built up the business into a thriving store selling medicines, perfumes, stationery, fruit and vegetables, expanding into the adjoining buildings and employing 100 staff by 1880. But the store’s booming fortunes changed in 1883, when it burnt to the ground in early December; with true Harrods mettle, Charles Digby fulfilled all the Christmas deliveries – and made a record profit for the store. A new building immediately rose from the ashes, and soon it extended credit for the first time to its best customers – among them Oscar Wilde and legendary actresses Lilly Langtry and Ellen Terry.