Harrods is one of the world’s leading luxury retail stores, located in upmarket Knightsbridge, London. Owned by Qatar Holding, it attracts customers from across the globe, providing an unparalleled shopping experience. The brand also operates Harrods Aviation, Harrods Estates and Harrods Bank.
Famous for its celebrity customers, luxurious food hall and crowd-pulling Christmas displays, Harrods is one of the world’s largest department stores, with more than 90,000 square metres of space, spanning over 330 departments, across seven floors. It attracts 15 million customers every year.
The iconic building on Brompton Road is steeped in heritage, having its roots in early 19th century London. The business was founded in 1824 by Essex-born Charles Henry Harrod, aged 25, who opened a small drapery and haberdashery shop in Southwark.
In the early 1830s, when the tea trade began to pick up after the East India Company lost its monopoly, Charles and his wife Elizabeth decided to move to Shadwell near the new docks. They opened a grocer’s shop on Cable Street, where business was good. Charles then started his own wholesale business in Eastcheap, which was also successful.
The Harrods store on Knightsbridge was established in 1849, initially in a single room, selling groceries and tea. There were just two assistants and a messenger boy. The retailer expanded steadily and by 1880, it was a bustling department store selling food, clothing, perfumes and medicines, attracting well-to-do customers.
Harrods became a public company in 1889. It launched a bank and estate agency in the 1890s, when it also launched a department selling exotic pets that was open until the 1970s. In 1959, department store group House of Fraser purchased Harrods. It was bought by Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian business magnate, in 1985.
Harrods erected a famous memorial to Mr Al Fayed’s son following the tragic death of Dodi and Diana Princess of Wales in a car crash in August 1997. Designed by Bill Mitchell, Harrods architect for more than four decades, the memorial features portraits of Dodi and Diana and an inscription. This remains on display at the bottom of the Egyptian escalator on the lower ground floor.
A second memorial was unveiled in 2005 in the shape of a bronze statue of the two on a beach, beneath an albatross’s wings. It was created by William Mitchell, Harrods’ artistic design advisor.
Harrods was sold to the Qatari royal family for £1.5 billion in 2010.
The Grade II art-deco listed building enjoyed a £20 million refurbishment in 2016 that included a new grand entrance, featuring 16 sets of double escalators clad with nickel bronze at the Hans Crescent entrance. It was said to be one of the most complex refurbishments Harrods had ever attempted. The project was designed by Make Architects.
The exterior of the store was also refurbished, with covered-up windows from the 1930s restored. A new glass dome was built on the roof to allow natural light to flood in, enabling shoppers to gaze up to the fifth floor from the lower ground floor for the first time.
Harrods is famous for its legendary Christmas decorations, which have different themes in the window displays every year. In 2013, the window displays, based on the classic British steam train, took 500 hours to create. The store’s Christmas grotto is a long-standing tradition, where children can meet Father Christmas and enjoy a magical journey through his toy workshop.
Shoppers flock to Harrods at all times of year to purchase its exquisite merchandise and dine in its high-quality restaurants. The 100-year-old food halls and its selection of premier services, such as the By Appointment Personal Shopping and the Urban Retreat Spa, are also a huge attraction.
Automatic Access has a long and successful track record designing and installing safe, efficient and reliable automatic doors in the retail sector. Charged with creating a bespoke solution for one of the world’s leading department stores, Automatic Access is proud to include Harrods as one of our retail clients.
Please contact us for further details of our bespoke solutions for retail businesses.