Its motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is Latin for “All things for all people, everywhere.” Harrods Department Store, however, is not all things for all people, and it is not everywhere. For almost two centuries, the London department store has been known as an upscale shopping hot spot that caters to men and women with thick wallets. However, with more than a million square feet of space devoted to selling, Harrods does live up to its motto of selling just about everything that’s worth buying, along with plenty of things that aren’t worth buying.
Notable From the Beginning
Harrods was originally founded in 1824 in London’s poorer East End by Charles Henry Harrod, who was only 25 at the time. Before he retired, Charles Henry Harrod made the wise decision of moving to the more upscale Brompton location, where the store still resides to this day. When his son Charles Digby Harrod took over the business, it was still a small operation with just three employees. Under the skillful guidance of the younger Harrod, the business blossomed. By 1880, Harrod employed 100 people and had purchased many of the adjoining buildings.
Charles Digby Harrod really proved his worth, however, in 1883, when a fire burnt his store to the ground a few weeks before Christmas. Nevertheless, he fulfilled all of his customers’ Christmas orders that year, turning a record profit in the process.
In 1905, Harrods moved into the building that it currently occupies. Throughout the 20th century, Harrods continued to grow in both size and reputation. In 1985, the Al-Fayed brothers, wealthy Egyptians, purchased Harrods. Harrods changed hands again in 2010, when the brothers sold the business to Qatar Holdings, despite Mohammed Al-Fayed’s vocal insistence that the business was not for sale.
Connection to Princess Diana
In the late 1990s, the eldest son of Mohammed Al-Fayed, Dodi Al-Fayed, began dating Princess Diana. The heir to the Al-Fayed fortunes died alongside his lover in the horrific car crash that took Diana’s life. From the beginning, Mohammed Al-Fayed fanned the flames of conspiracy theories, insisting that the MI6 had Diana and Dodi killed for their own nefarious purposes. Al-Fayed placed two memorials to Diana and Dodi inside Harrods, including a sculpture of the two dancing on a beach under the wings of an albatross.
Harrods remains one of the must-see locations in London, even if most casual visitors can’t afford its 20 GBP chocolate bars or its 24,000 GBP designer dresses. If you plan to visit Harrods, though, make sure you dress for the occasion. Since 1989, the department store has had a relatively strict dress code in place. Don’t try to walk through the front door wearing your Bermuda shorts; Harrods employees reserve the right to turn you away.