It’s all change in Knightsbridge as Harrods has a new owner. We examine what makes the store the most famous in the world
Why is Harrods in the news?
Arguably the most famous store anywhere in the world, Harrods is one of the most recognised landmarks in London and synonymous with glamour and excess.
This week it has changed hands with Mohamed Al Fayed selling it to Qatar Holding, the investment arm of the Qatar Investment Authority, the state-owned investment agency for a reported £1.5bn.
What is the history of Harrods?
Harrods was founded by Charles Henry Harrod in 1834 as a wholesale grocer in Stepney, in London’s East End.
It first opened a store in its current Knightsbridge location in 1883. Harrod’s son, Charles Digby, built up the business and expanded the store. It could have all fallen into ruin in 1883 after a fire burnt the store to the ground but Digby managed to fulfil all of its customer orders and make record profits for the business, which was soon rebuilt.
The Harrod family left retail in 1889 and Harrods became a public company. Then, in 1898 the world’s first escalator was built in the store. A brandy was offered at the top floor to help calm nervous customers.
In 1959 Harrods was bought by House of Fraser, which owned it until 1985 when Egyptian Mohamed Al Fayed bought the business for £615m.
What’s different about it?
Harrods has become famous for selling unusual items. Its exotic pet store became famous for the lion cub, Christian, which often escaped, causing havoc. Playwright Noel Coward once bought an alligator from the Harrods pet shop for a Christmas present.
It brought in an Egyptian cobra eight years ago to guard a sapphire and diamond-encrusted pair of René Caovilla shoes. Its employment did not last long, as the shoes sold within three hours. In the 1930s, the world’s first TV set went on sale at Harrods.
Who has worked there?
Several famous faces, including Hollywood star and former James Bond Pierce Brosnan, who worked in the pharmacy. In the 1970s Dave Prowse, the original Darth Vader in Star Wars, was a fitness consultant in the sports department.
The new owners are reported to be looking at a makeover for the store and new international markets, including Shanghai. It is not known whether Al Fayed’s plan to be buried in the store will stand but the business is likely to continue to succeed with its customer base of the global super-rich and tourists.