The store occupies a site and has over one million square feet of selling space in over 330 departments. This makes Harrods the largest department store in the world (the UK's second-biggest store, Oxford Street's Selfridges is a little over half the size with of selling space).
The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique —- All Things for All People, Everywhere. Several of its departments, including the seasonal Christmas department and the Food Hall are world famous.
Harrods was established in 1834 in London’s East End, when founder Charles Henry Harrod set up a wholesale grocery in Stepney, with a special interest in tea. In 1849, to escape the filth of the inner city and to capitalise on trade to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in nearby Hyde Park, Harrod took over a small shop in the district of Knightsbridge, on the site of the current store. Beginning in a single room employing two assistants and a messenger boy, Harrod’s son Charles Digby Harrod built the business into a thriving retail operation selling medicines, perfumes, stationery, fruit, and vegetables. Harrods rapidly expanded, acquired the adjoining buildings, and employed one hundred people by 1880.
However, the store’s booming fortunes were reversed in early December 1883, when it burnt to the ground. Remarkably, in view of this calamity, Charles Harrod fulfilled all of his commitments to his customers to make Christmas deliveries that year — and made a record profit in the process. In short order, a new building was raised on the same site, and soon Harrods extended credit for the first time to its best customers, among them Oscar Wilde, legendary actresses Lilly Langtry and Ellen Terry, Noël Coward, Sigmund Freud, A. A. Milne, and many members of the British royal family.
A representative sample of store services includes 28 restaurants, serving everything from high tea to tapas to pub food to haute cuisine; a personal shopping-assistance programme known as "By Appointment"; a watch repair service; a tailor; a dispensing pharmacy; a beauty spa and salon; a barbers shop; Harrods Financial Services; Harrods Bank; private events planning and catering; food delivery; a wine steward; bespoke "picnic" hampers and gift boxes; bespoke cakes; and bespoke fragrance formulations.
Up to 300,000 customers visit the store on peak days, comprising the highest proportion of customers from non-English speaking countries of any department store in London. More than five thousand staff from over fifty different countries work at Harrods. A fleet of fifty delivery vehicles make up to 225,000 deliveries every year. Approximately 11,500 energy-efficient light bulbs turn Harrods into a beacon of light each night, 300 of which are replaced every day.
Harrods was the holder of royal warrants from:
Harrods had held The Duke of Edinburgh's warrant since 1956, but it was rescinded by Prince Philip on 21 December 2001 because of a "significant decline in the trading relationship" between the duke and the store.
Al Fayed then pre-emptively removed all the royal coats of arms that had been prominently displayed by the business, even though other warrants were yet to expire or be withdrawn. None of the royal grantors of warrants had spent any money at Harrods since 1997, the year Diana, Princess of Wales, died.
Since the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed, Mohamed Al Fayed's son, two memorials commissioned by Al Fayed have been erected inside Harrods to the couple. The first, unveiled on April 12, 1998, consists of photographs of the two behind a pyramid-shaped display that holds a wine glass still smudged with lipstick from Diana's last dinner as well as what is described as an engagement ring Dodi purchased the day before they died.
The second memorial, unveiled in 2005 and located by the Egyptian escalator at door three is titled "Innocent Victims", is a bronze statue of the two dancing on a beach beneath the wings of an albatross. The albatross is a bird that is said to symbolise the "Holy Spirit". The sculpture was created by 80 year old Bill Mitchell who is a close friend of Al Fayed and has been the artistic design advisor to Harrods for 40 years.
Mr Al Fayed said he wanted to keep the pair's "spirit alive" through the statue.