Company: Harrods Ltd Harrod's Stores Ltd

Registration number:

Company name: Harrods Ltd
Dates in business: 1920-

Earlier name: Company name: Harrod's Stores Ltd
Dates in business: 1889-1920

Type of business: department store retailers

Type of company: Limited liability company

  • Brompton Road, London, England

Company history

By 1834, Charles Henry Harrod had begun trading as a wholesale grocer and tea dealer in Cable Street, Stepney, London. In 1853, he took over the house and grocery shop of Philip Henry Burden in the Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London.

In 1861, Harrod retired and his ambitious son, Charles Digby Harrod assumed control, determined to expand the business. Over the course of the next two decades he extended both the shop's premises and retail departments. The store enjoyed considerable success, insisting on ready money and low prices along the lines of co-operatives such as the Army & Navy Co-operative Society. When the store was destroyed by fire in 1883, Harrod took the opportunity to build a new five storey store, with handsome facade and interior, which opened to universal acclaim in 1884.

Charles Digby Harrod retired in 1889, selling the store to a new limited liability company, Harrod's Stores Ltd. William Stewart, previously a floor manager, was appointed general manager. This appointment was not, however, a success and he was replaced in 1891 by Richard Burbidge who had previous experience in the Army & Navy Co-operative Society. Burbidge continued to expand the business through the 1890s and into the early twentieth century, with profits enjoying a five-fold increase between 1890 and 1896.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Harrods was undertaking a series of major renovation and building works in its Brompton Street store. The range of merchandise on offer was immense, with the annual illustrated price list numbering more than 1,000 pages.

In 1914, Harrods acquired Dickins & Jones, with its prestigious Regent Street store. The First World War, however, brought challenging conditions for maintaining service and stock. In 1917, Richard Burbidge died, succeeded as managing director by his son, Woodman Burbidge. At the end of the war, trade recovered quickly, and in 1919 Kendal Milne, with its large department store in Manchester, was acquired. This was to be Harrods first step in the creation of a network of provincial stores.

In 1920, the company's name was changed to Harrods Ltd. Whilst the 1920s brought challenging trading conditions, Harrods continued to acquire other businesses. Walter Carter Ltd, Manchester, and Swan & Edgar Ltd, London in 1920 and D H Evans & Co Ltd of Oxford Street, London in 1928. The difficult conditions continued in the 1930s and the outbreak of the Second World War was particularly detrimental to the store's trade.

Harrods, however, came through the war, and embarked again on a period of acquisitions. John Walsh Ltd of Sheffield was acquired in 1946; William Henderson & Sons Ltd of Liverpool in 1949 and Rackhams Ltd, Birmingham in 1955. Harrods itself was soon the target of takeover bids. In 1959, House of Fraser Ltd saw off competitive offers from Debenhams and United Drapery Stores to acquire the company.

Richard Burbidge, who had succeeded his father as managing director in 1935, left Harrods soon after the takeover and was replaced by Alfred Spence. Under House of Fraser's ownership, the investment in the development of the store premises and merchandise continued, with renovations undertaken and new departments opened in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

In 1994, when the House of Fraser went public, Harrods was kept under the private ownership of the Al Fayed family, which had acquired the House of Fraser in 1985.

Records held for Harrods Ltd:

FRAS 809
Title: Correspondence on proposed purchase of William Harvey of Guildford Ltd by Harrods Ltd
Date: 1950-1962
FRAS 478
Title: Supplementary agreements and assignments with Harrods
Date: 1970s
Agreements between Harrods Ltd and J J Allen Ltd

Related People and Companies:

Corporation name: Dickins & Jones Ltd
Dates of connection: 1914
Connection type: Harrods Ltd acquired a controlling interest in Dickins & Jones Ltd in 1914. Dickins & Jones Ltd was brought completely into the ownership of Harrods Ltd in June 1968.
Corporation name: D H Evans & Co Ltd
Dates of connection: 1928
Connection type: Harrods Ltd acquired the entire ordinary share capital of D H Evans & Co Ltd in June 1928.
Corporation name: John Walsh Ltd
Dates of connection: 1946
Connection type: Harrods Ltd bought the entire shareholding in John Walsh Ltd in 1946 and the company was completely sold to Harrods Ltd in 1968.
Corporation name: John Walsh Manufacturing Co Ltd
Dates of connection: 1946
Connection type: Harrods Ltd bought the entire shareholding in John Walsh Manufacturing Co Ltd in 1946.
Corporation name: William Henderson & Sons Ltd
Dates of connection: 1949
Connection type: Harrods Ltd acquired William Henderson & Sons Ltd in 1949.
Corporation name: Rackhams Ltd
Dates of connection: 1955
Connection type: Harrods Ltd acquired Rackhams Ltd in 1955.
Corporation name: House of Fraser Ltd
Dates of connection: 1959
Connection type: Harrods Ltd was acquired by House of Fraser Ltd in 1959.

Access points: Department stores - Retail trade

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