The world's most famous department store is redefining retail for a new century

Harrods was founded 186 years ago when an ambitious young miller from Clacton by the name of Charles Henry Harrod opened a tea merchant and small grocery shop in Stepney, east London. In 1849, two years before The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, Harrod realised that is his story moved to up-and-coming Knightsbridge, it could attract adventurous, curious customers, eager to sample that which was new and exotic.

Today, the world’s most famous department store spans seven (and a half) storeys of wonder, with a shop floor covering 4.5 acres and 40 lifts that travel 40,000 miles each year. And now the next chapter of the Harrods story is being written. For the past four years the store has been in the midst of a masterplan to transform half the internal space into an experience unlike any other. It’s the largest, most ambitious undertaking in the brand’s history and it will turn Harrods into a veritable cultural and experiential hub.

The changes at Harrods reflect how retail itself is changing. It’s no longer about simply shopping but seeking out experiences not found anywhere else

Many of the newly transformed departments have already been unveiled: customers can purchase a made-to-measure suit in Men’s Superbrands’ elegant club rooms; head to the Fresh Market Hall for recipe suggestions and on-the-spot preparation; or discover sensory aroma tables and masterclasses in the Fine Wines and Spirits rooms.

Meanwhile, as many of us spend more time at home, with our living spaces becoming more agile than ever, Harrods Interiors department has been completely reimagined as a unique and elevated destination to support customers with all their home comfort, home creativity, home office and home experience needs.

The changes at Harrods reflect how retail itself is changing. It’s no longer about simply shopping but seeking out experiences not found anywhere else. So, there are masterclasses to keep pace with the dazzlingly fast, often bamboozling march of technology. There’s an in-house interior design service for all manner of projects, from developing entire buildings to styling a single room. There’s a Personalisation department for having your bath towels embroidered with your family crest or you can create your very own bespoke chess set in the newly opened Harrods Arcade on the Lower Ground Floor. There’s a Baccarat Bar, bringing together the glamour and craftsmanship of sparkling chandeliers and crystalware, with one-of-a-kind cocktails and chef-made delicacies.

Recent changes also reflect the new future of retail in which customers want to experience exceptional service, access beautiful products and connect with expertise and guides remotely through sophisticated digital channels and virtual concierge touchpoints.

The new, fully immersive Harrods.com is a digital destination where customers can discover all that is on offer at the iconic Knightsbridge store, presenting shopping, styling advice and stand-out content through an incredible ecommerce hub. There’s also a new concierge service and app, where customers can talk to Harrods experts from home.

Harrods has always pioneered the art of the possible. After all, it installed Britain’s first-ever revolving staircase in 1898 (with cognac and smelling salts at the ready to calm customers’ nerves). It’s as much of a stimulating cultural hub as a retail emporium and will continue to inspire and delight anyone who enters its doors, or who desires to connect with Harrods virtually, from the comfort of home.