Whether you’re looking for high-end fashion or cheap thrift, you can find a spot to get them in London. There’s a shop for everyone, making London the international hotspot for shopping. The range of offers is vast, including many innovative and classic offerings. Many department stores line the street, making it easy to understand why Londoners always look so well dressed. Two of the biggest department stores you can find are Harrods and Selfridges, and you’ll learn more about them in this Harrods vs Selfridges comparison.
There has always been a friendly rivalry between Selfridges and Harrods. As a result, the two leading department stores in London are constantly creating new ideas and trying to provide their customers with a unique experience every time they step into the store. At Harrods, you can find all the latest fashion you’re looking for. On the other hand, Selfridges is the one-stop for finding what’s up and coming and established brands. Selfridges place these two next to each other as a strategy to send their customers on a journey of discovery. We’ll explore these two department stores in this Harrods vs Selfridges comparison; let’s get started.
Harrods vs Selfridges – An Overview
Department stores used to enjoy all the attention in the British retail scene. Harrods and Selfridges were the leading experiential and customer-centric brands you could find, and they were the go-to for all the fashion you want. Before online shopping took over, people would go to these department stores and touch garments before purchasing them. However, the introduction of online shops caused most departmental stores, including our giants, to struggle with relevancy. As a result, many department stores crumbled during the pandemic. However, Selfridges and Harrods remained standing.
Many would argue that this is due to their commitment to service, experience, and leading products. The companies are also situated in stunning locations and remained relevant despite the introduction of online shopping and the advent of the pandemic. They also remain a favorite for most London shoppers to date. However, this doesn’t remove the fact that both brands have always been rivals. In this Harrods vs Selfridges comparison, we’ll provide you with a history of both brands to help you determine which the best brand for you is.
Harrods vs Selfridges – History of Harrods
Harrods began in 1824 with Charles Henry Harrod as his founder. He started the departmental store selling home furnishing items like drapes and linens. However, as his customers increased, he decided to dive into the grocery world. This expansion didn’t just include his product line but also his locations. As a result, the department store opened new stores on Cable Street, Whitecross Street, and Borough Street.
When the British introduced the Great Exhibition in 1851, Harrods wanted to gain more business with this new trend and moved again. This move allowed Harrods to gain more business from international visitors to the city. Charles’s son Charge Digby was responsible for creating a successful retail business for the brand. He widened their offerings from home furnishing and groceries to perfumes, pharmaceuticals, perfumes, and stationeries. He also increased the workforce by employing over 100 people in 1880. However, the company was set to face its first strategy as the store was destroyed by fire in 1883.
This wasn’t the end for the store as they rebuilt and opened a new five-story building which soon became the core of London’s most famous landmarks. But unfortunately, the store soon had to face the death of its founder, Charles Harrod, two years later. After his father’s death, Charles Digby Harrod sold the store to a Limited Liability Company. This brought a new managing director into the scene, and he was famous as the driving force behind the company’s transformation into one of the largest departmental stores in London. Harrods became a leading force in the UK retail industry through his efforts.
Burbidge, the new managing director, started the expansion of Harrods with the Knightsbridge store. He did this by purchasing the stores’ lands and starting a dramatic expansion. By the end of the century, Harrods already had 80 departments and over 2000 employees. On the other hand, Burbidge also began the transformation of the goods sold at the store. The goal was to move the brand to a more upscale trade. Harrods was already becoming synonymous with the upper class in the early years of the new century. Some other upgrades Burbidge made to the company include the construction of a ten-acre warehouse in 1894.
The warehouse looked similar to the Knightsbridge store. The same year, Harrods launched its first winter clearance sales. In 1898, the department store also installed the first escalator in the city. This came with attendants waiting on the next floor with brandy for customers who were overwhelmed with the experience. Harrods continued its expansion, and its motto soon became ‘everything for everybody everywhere.’ Some popular items sold at the store include airplanes, alligators, and several more unusual items. This soon became a tradition for the brand, as was shown by the store selling a baby elephant to US president Ronald Reagan.
With the outbreak of world war I, Harrods started to expand its single stores. The company bought Dickins & Jones on London’s Regent Street in 1914. This acquisition was only the beginning as the company continued to acquire many retail stores, including Rackmans in Birmingham. The company also expanded into international markets in 1916; it first expanded into Bueno Aires, Argentina. The stores shared directors throughout World War II. However, by the war’s end, they were separate companies, and Harrods sold off its interest in the Argentinean store by the 1960s.
Although there were several pitfalls, the company continued to expand into a high-profile department store in London. The department store boasts over 300 stores and sells a vast range of products, including menswear, sporting gear, womenswear, children’s wear, bridal wear, and many more. Qatari Holdings bought the company for 1.6 billion pounds in 2010. Since then, the department store has expanded to include a Disney store and offers several services on its site. To date, Harrods is a department store for luxury services in every field. It gives shoppers a unique retail experience.
Harrods vs Selfridges: Selfridges History
Selfridges, also known as Selfridges & Co., is a high-end chain of department stores founded by Harry Gordon Selfridge, founded in 1858 in Wisconsin in the USA. He joined Field, Leiter, and Company and worked for the Chicago retailer for many years. After climbing the corporate ladder in the company, he married into the well-known Buckingham family. This allowed him to amass a fortune which he used to build a London store. Selfridge was 51 when he opened this store in Oxford Street, the center of London. Although he was already a rich man and could have returned, he decided to begin a company of his own.
The store was unique in its design as the exterior featured stone and plaster, which gave it an imposing neo-classical structure. The store opened in 1909 after a strong advertising campaign. Over the months, the London press had been running reports on the progress of the construction, building up the people’s excitement.
Another way Selfridge could build excitement for his company was with the power of celebrities. Once the store opened, over 150,000 shoppers visited the store. In addition, the roof garden in the building was home to special events. The store opened with many exotic products never sold in London beforehand. Selfridge shared that he planned to sell everything from a cigar to an airplane.
The store placed ladies’ cosmetics and perfumes at the front of the store, unlike other London stores that placed them inside rooms. This distinction also sets the brand apart in this Harrods vs Selfridges comparison. This made the store a huge success with ladies. Selfridge also had a large fleet of delivery vans that allowed products to be delivered directly to your home without you leaving your home.
In 1911, the department store introduced the Bargain Basement concept. This helped to attract customers that were not the elite of London. This way, they could purchase expensive items alongside thrift items. The company also expanded to include a book store and a department that offered a department that sold everything a pet owner needs. He opened the pet store because he loved pug dogs and noted that most of his customers owned dogs.
During World War I, most men working at the department store went off to war, and Selfridge replaced them with women. It was during this period that the phrase ‘business as usual’ was invented by Harry Selfridge himself. The company expanded after world war I with the expansion of the London store and the opening of new shops outside London. The store provided fashion of all kinds and promoted different events.
To date, despite the Harrods vs Selfridges rivalry, Selfridge still stands tall, and the founder, Harry Selfridge, is remembered for being an innovative marketer. He made shopping fun and is known to be the innovator of ‘the customer is always right.’ Today, most department stores in London have copied the company’s strategy. The architecture of the Selfridge store also makes it a top tourist destination.
Anyone in London won’t miss a chance to visit the world’s two most famous department stores. These stores have become significant destinations for all your fashion needs and are also popular amongst tourists in London. Both department stores have very different beginnings as Harrods started with a merchant who was only a food merchant at the beginning. On the other hand, Harry Selfridge had already amassed his wealth before he decided to make his mark in the retail world. The two brands also have varying methods of displaying their products, although they both love to offer unusual products to their customers. In comparison, Selfridge combines the new with the established, and Harrods love to focus on the recent trend. However, one thing you can count on despite their differences in this Harrods vs Selfridges comparison is that they’ll both offer you the best shopping experience you’ll have.