For those of us who love shopping, it would be difficult to imagine a world without department stores. An important part of our daily lives today, department stores revolutionised the way we shopped during the Victorian era, when, for the first time, merchandise was displayed with fixed prices, instead of being bargained over. Our look at London's best provides insight into the past and present of our favourite places to shop.
“All things for all people, everywhere” has been Harrods' motto since 1849. Founder Charles Henry Harrods started off selling tea and groceries in one room. Today, spanning 100,000 square metres, seven floors and 330 departments, the palatial Harrods attracts over 15 million shoppers every year to its Knightsbridge location. Did you know that it had one of the world's first escalators at the end of the 19th century, and a pets department up until last summer?
Fast forward to 2015, Harrods Shoe Heaven launches limited edition footwear this season: Casadei blade stiletto in crocodile, Charlotte Olympia kitty flats with Swarovski, Prada's new paisley, Tods Gommini with pearls, and Dolce & Gabbana's made-to-order service. The Step Out of the Ordinary collection is a perfect way to stride into the summer.
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The story of Harvey Nichols is inextricably intertwined with Victorian Knightsbridge. What started as a linen shop run by Benjamin Harvey in 1831 expanded over the years, and was eventually purpose-built into a new department store. When the late Princess Diana was young, she loved shopping its eclectic mix of fashion brands, as Harvey Nichols introduced Lanvin, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen in the early 1990s.
Rethink your wardrobe with the Style Concierge, choosing from exclusive brands like Tim Coppens' first womenswear line, Thakoon handbags, Manolo Blahnik, Lust fine jewellery, Carrynest, John Elliot & Co and much more. Don't miss Victoria Beckham's first accessories shop-in-shop in the UK, Charlotte Olympia's first in Europe and Alaïa's ready-to-wear and accessories.
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House of Fraser
House of Fraser began back in 1849, when it used to be a small drapery shop in Glasglow. Over the decades, its success led to acquisitions of neighbouring businesses and, after a major facelift in the 1990s, HoF, as it is known amongst loyal shoppers, now also offers online shopping, in addition to its many locations throughout the UK and Ireland.
The HoF flagship on Oxford Street showcases British labels, international fashion and cosmetics. Besides Biba, Max Mara, Ted Baker, Karen Miller, Nichole Farhi and other high street brands, you can create a unique look at whatever budget with the help of expert stylists in the store's own Personal Shopping suites. A trip to HoF is not complete without making an appointment for consultation or treatment in the Beauty Rooms where pampering has a style all of its own.
HoF also offers Tax Free refunds on the second f loor to the delight of shoppers who are big on purchases but short on time. By logging onto www.houseoffraser.co.uk, you can enjoy click-and-collect services, or make a Personal Shopping or Beauty Room appointment.
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Selfridges have been at it for quite a while. The vast Neoclassical building on Oxford Street was opened by Harry Gordon Selfridge just over a century ago, and from then on they've been pioneering retailing techniques. They virtually invented window shopping, and Harry was the first to allow customers to interact unhindered with the items on sale.
Today Selfridges has met the vast growth in international customers with a new Customer Services space, with a particular focus on the needs of tax-free shoppers. It is now on the fourth floor, with a whole series of spaces including the Tax Refund Lounge, two Tax Free Halls, VIP areas for high-net-worth shoppers, and even a Mac Bar where you can go online to shop from the Selfridges website or simply check your email. At the Theatre Desk, you can book shows and excursions.The design of the new premises by London-based studio Waldo Works carefully enhances the original features of the iconic building while providing efficient services within a cool, luxurious setting for supremely stylish shopping.
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