Over the years England’s capital has been a keystone of indulging hard-core shoppers, assisting in retail therapy, and creating some of the high name brands that have become household favourites. Due to the scale of shops and the extensive history of London, it is no wonder that London’s department stores have picked up a few hidden secrets and interesting facts along the way.
At Central London Apartments we have compiled a list of five facts that you didn’t know about some of London’s biggest department stores.
Bet you can Shop?
- Where else to start this list than Harrods, a landmark of London’s stores and focal point of many tourists; but did you know in the early part of the 20th Century, Selfridges and Harrods were competing head to head as rival businesses. At the end of 1916 Harry Gordon Selfridge made a bet with the managing director at Harrods. Mr. Selfridge claimed that he could make more profit than Harrods by the end of 1917. His bet never paid off however, as at the end of 1917 Harrods had turned a bigger profit. As a winning prize Mr. Selfridge commissioned a silver replica of the store to be made, which is still on display on the lower ground floor today.
The War Effort
2. Additionally, while Selfridges is now a household name, and is the largest shop on Oxford Street, the department store went through a lot of trials and tribulations in its early days. Despite a major set back with Harrods winning the contract to supply the British Army with Uniforms in World War One; Selfridges went on to win a contract of its own. During the war Selfridges supplied underwear for the French army. Nevertheless, World War One saw record annual profits for the company.
Shopping is like a drug
3. It seems that the early 20th Century was the era that many things happened for Harrods as well, as this was also the year that this famous department store stopped the sales of its cocaine. Until 1916 Harrods had sold Ryno’s Hay Fever and Catarrh remedy, which were almost purely cocaine. Shoppers could also get their hands on gift sets which contained not just cocaine but morphine, needles and syringes.
Shopping or Shipping?
4. Following on from Harrods, Liberty London also sits above the rest as a pivotal point in the formation of London’s retail history. Despite its Elizabethan looks and its beautiful architecture, the building that houses this department store was actually built in 1924. Wanting Liberty not to be just another store, and stick by Arthur Liberty’s code of seeking out the new and interesting; the building was constructed out of timbers recycled from the battle ships, HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan.
Bean and gone
5. In 1707 Fortnum and Mason was founded, making it the oldest still-operating department store in London; but did you know that when a visiting American man came over to England to show off tins of sample food, Fortnum and Mason were the only store to buy all of the tins. The American man’s name was Mr. Heinz and this was now England’s first taste of Baked Beans in 1886.