Harrods is an upmarket department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London. The store occupies a 5 acre site and has over one million square feet of selling space in over 330 departments making it the biggest department store in Europe attracting 15 million customers a year.
The founder of Harrods was Charles Henry Harrod who began his business life as a draper in Southwark in the 1820s. In 1834 he established a grocery shop with a special interest in tea, in Stepney, east London. In 1849, in order to capitalise on trade to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in nearby Hyde Park, Harrod took over a small shop in Knightsbridge on the site of the current store.
In 1861 Harrod’s son, Charles Digby Harrod, took over the business from his father and in the following years he built the company into a thriving retail operation selling medicines, perfumes, stationery, fruits and vegetables.
Harrods expanded rapidly, acquiring the adjoining buildings and employed 100 people by 1880. Harrods’ expansion suffered a blow in 1883 when a fire destroyed the store. The store was soon rebuilt on the same site, with the help of architect Charles William Stephens, into what it is today. Known for its grandeur, when the store was reopened it had a palatial style, featuring a frontage of terracotta tiles adorned with cherubs, swirling Art Nouveau windows, and topped with a baroque-style dome.
Harrods became a public company in 1889 and by the 1890s it had established a bank and estate agency and a department selling exotic pets that lasted until the 1970s. In 1898 Harrods opened the first escalator in England in its store. Nervous customers were offered brandy at the top to revive them after their “ordeal”.
In 1959 Harrods was acquired by the House of Fraser Group. In 1985 the store returned to private ownership when Mohamed Al-Fayed bought House of Fraser for £615 million. In 2010 Al-Fayed sold Harrods to Qatar Holdings for £1.5 billion.
Harrods were prolific users of overprints, although the earliest overprints do not appear until the King George V period; the first being the Harrod’s Stores overprints on SG 327 and SG 357.