Great Scott! If Americans think they have cornered the market on mega malls and sprawling luxury goods, they were wrong. Harrod’s most certainly puts the Mall of America and any Bloomigdale’s, Nordstorm’s, or Macy’s to shame!
Because I was staying with a friend with connections, I was fortunate enough to get a quick guided tour by one of the project managers at this monstropolis some people call a store. Sophie, my lovely new friend and chaperon, showed us around the seven floors of this sprawling retail heaven and gave us some insider information on what all is happening behind those closed, golden doors. So, without further ado, let me fill you in!
Harrod’s motto is Omnia Omnibus Unique, which translates to “all things for all people, everywhere”, and does that ever ring true! Not just your typical department store, Harrod’s has food halls, super luxury designer boutiques, fancy restaurants, high tea, clothes, appliances, furniture and almost anything else you can think of.
Originally when we planned to meet up with Sophie, I though it would be as simple as walking in the front door and arranging a little jaunt about the store. Let me just say, I grossly underestimated the gravity of Harrod’s. You can’t just “meet up” with anyone. You have to pick a specific place on a certain floor and confirm that you are both speaking of the same location. By the time we got to Sophie, my jaw had dropped so far that I had been dragging it behind me for the past several meters (that’s right, I’m adopting the metric system). She asked what I wanted to see and I said “Everything!”
We started at the Egyptian escalators. A project that cost £20 million pounds to create, the escalators are now “listed” as a stage 2 (of 5) heritage site. What this means, as Sophie explained, is that they cannot be removed; no matter how much Harrod’s might want to, and it sounds like they would really like to change it up.
They will get their chance however because another set of escalators are getting a facelift come January. Since Sophie is on the team for Project Escalator, she was able to tell us a few things about this breaking news from the ground level. First, these new escalators are on point to have the same budget as their Egyptian counterparts: £20 million pounds! The construction is set to begin next January and be in progress until November! This may seem like quite a while to have escalators out of service, but when you consider that they have to take the escalators in and out of the roof, it puts the timeline into perspective. At any rate, it should be a very exciting unveiling.
Now let’s talk about food, a personal favorite of mine. Harrod’s has 17 restaurants in addition to their “food halls” (not courts) where you can buy fresh seafood, loose tea, deli meats, pastries, etc. It was literally one of the most amazing experiences of London; walking through designer boutiques and copious amounts of opulence, then popping out in a room full of fresh seafood and meat. It’s just something you will have to see with your own two eyes because my photos certainly don’t do it justice!
Before I wrap it up, I’ll just share a few more interesting tidbits with you about my day at Harrod’s. One of the little specialty shops was focused on pet accessories and maintenance. I commented that it seemed superfluous to me that their be a whole section of the store committed to pet care, to which Sophie replied “Well, there used to be a pet store in Harrod’s.” Puppies, kittens, lions, crocodiles, all the usual suspects. And yes, I said lions. In fact, there is a viral video of a lion running to its owners and hugging them after seemingly being lost in the jungle. That lion was purchased at Harrod’s. The Pet Kingdom (as it was aptly named) opened in 1917 but unfortunately closed to make way for a new women’s fashion floor. But the video of Christian still brings a tear to your eyes.
After my incredible experience at Harrod’s, I realized that it’s more than just a store, it’s a way of life.