When, in the 1860s, Henry Digby Harrod reflected on the ‘very nice counter trade’ of the grocery shop run by his brother Charles Digby at 105 Brompton Road of ‘about £200 to £250 per week’, he can scarcely have imagined the distinguished site under the same name today.
The Harrods were the sons of Charles Henry, who moved his small Stepney grocery store to Knightsbridge in 1849, in anticipation of the extra trade generated by the Great Exhibition to be held in Hyde Park two years later. It proved to be a shrewd move. By 1880, Charles Henry was employing 100 people and had expanded to sell perfumes and medicines, confectionery, fruit and flowers. Indeed, according to the Chelsea Herald of 1884, shoppers could find such delights as: ‘breeches’ paste, blancmange, glycerine, lobsters, plate powder, sugar candy, boot top powder, wax vestas, salt, prawns, phosphor paste, oysters, milk, knife polish, house flannel, dog biscuits, mustard and a thousand and one other articles of a heterogeneous nature but all of which meet in the store room of any well ordered household.’
That same variety prevails today – if with a little more luxury – but Harrods’ success has always relied on a philosophy that is broader than pure retail. For Charles Henry and his son, the store’s most important attribute was its service, delivered by staff who went above and beyond customers’ expectations.
The Harrods family also recognised the value of creating a sensational environment, investing heavily in the architecture and interiors of what became known as the Terracotta Palace. That service ethic and palatial ambience remain as the store continues to evolve.
At the forefront of current developments are the four historic Food Halls, which will be transformed over the next few years into an unrivalled combination of skill, service and food, all in the same Grade II-listed environment. Harrods’ 150 in-house chefs will make fresh dishes daily for customers to take home or eat in-store, while the department will offer even more of the world’s greatest produce.
The first phase of The Taste Revolution was rolled out in November 2017, with the opening of The Roastery and Bake Hall, complete with in-houses baristas, tea blenders and bakers; customers can also create their own blends of tea and coffee.
Also new this year is The Wellness Clinic, in which practitioners recommend and conduct a wide range of therapies including face and body treatments, cryotherapy, personal training, dietitian consultation, vitamin infusions, acupuncture, DNA testing for prescriptive skincare and chiropractor and posture services. Meanwhile, at the very top of the store, the newly extended Salon de Parfums is underlining Harrods’ reputation as the world leader in bespoke fragrance. Brands, including Chanel, Dior and Roja Dove, have been joined by names such as Burberry, Floraïku and Frédéric Malle. Exclusive scents are available too: at Penhaligon’s, as well as composing their own signature concoction, customers can enjoy an exclusive fragrance – The Remarkable Success of Mr Harrod. Something else that Henry Digby probably wouldn’t have envisaged more than 150 years ago.
HARRODS 87-135 BROMPTON ROAD, LONDON SW1X 7XL +44 (0)20 7730 1234