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London's Top Department Stores: Which One Reigns Supreme?

CEO Tinh Phung
London is home to some of the most renowned department stores in the world, including Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, and Fortnum & Mason. But when it comes to choosing the best all-rounder among these...

London is home to some of the most renowned department stores in the world, including Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, and Fortnum & Mason. But when it comes to choosing the best all-rounder among these iconic establishments, the competition is fierce. We've visited all five stores and evaluated them based on various criteria, such as appearance, navigation, facilities, staff, atmosphere, and stock. So, which department store emerged victorious? Let's dive in and find out!

Fortnum & Mason: A Timeless Elegance

The moment you step into Fortnum & Mason, you'll be captivated by its palpable history. From the pastel green Diocletian windows to the carved wooden staircase, every detail exudes charm. The store has successfully preserved its heritage, incorporating original fireplaces and a grand hall music clock that speaks volumes about its rich past. In addition to its historic features, Fortnum & Mason impresses with its affable staff, top-hatted doormen, and a wide range of tastefully displayed products. From antique cases to tables, each item is presented impeccably, reflecting the store's commitment to quality. Whether you're exploring the food hall or resting on a deep leather sofa, Fortnum & Mason offers a pleasant and delightful shopping experience.

Fortnum & Mason's gallery forms a centrepiece. Fortnum & Mason's gallery forms a centrepiece. Photo by David Bank in the Londonist Flickr pool

Harvey Nichols: Lost in the Labyrinth

Upon entering Harvey Nichols, you might find yourself bewildered and engulfed in a cloud of perfume. Navigating through the store can be a challenge, as everything feels hidden on the ground floor and signage is lacking. Despite its visually appealing exterior, the interior fails to maintain the store's historical charm, with its low ceilings and blinding sunken lights. However, the top floor provides some respite with its food hall and decent selection of restaurants. While the staff are friendly and helpful, the overall atmosphere and ambiance fall short. Harvey Nichols offers a range of branded products, but the prices and lack of a distinctive character make it a less remarkable choice.

A window display at Harvey Nichols. A window display at Harvey Nichols. Photo by Raphael Preston in the Londonist Flickr pool

Harrods: Timeless Classic with Modern Flair

Harrods, the most famous shop in the world, seamlessly blends its historical past with a touch of modernity. The store features Victorian-tiled food halls alongside the Al-Fayed-era Egyptian Escalator, creating a harmonious fusion. With its extensive range of products, Harrods caters to all tastes, from tea towels to Gandhi's autograph. Navigating the store can be challenging, but the helpful staff are always ready to assist you. However, finding a comfortable chair or the elusive toilets can be a bit of a task. Despite these minor drawbacks, Harrods remains a top contender, thanks to its stunning appearance and unparalleled stock selection.

Harrods (it's the one on the left). Harrods (it's the one on the left). Photo by Jeff Goldberg in the Londonist Flickr pool

Liberty: Eccentric Charm

Liberty, the eccentric aunt of London's department store scene, charms visitors with its wooden beams and cosy corners. Stepping inside feels like visiting an old relative, complete with a memorial on the stairs honoring staff who perished during World War II. However, navigation within Liberty can be a bit challenging due to the lack of a central staircase or escalator. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, always ready to assist you in your browsing journey. The store primarily focuses on its iconic Liberty print items, with the famous design applied to a wide range of products. While finding an exit can be a bit of a challenge, the relaxed atmosphere and unique shopping environment make Liberty a delightful experience.

Photo: Damien du Toit Photo: Damien du Toit

Selfridges: A Modern Marvel

Selfridges impresses with its grandeur and scale. As you enter through the Duke Street side, you'll be greeted by a dapper gentleman handing out store information. Despite the massive size of the store, the main escalator is conveniently placed, making navigation a bit easier. However, the store's interior lacks the historical allure found in other department stores. It leans more towards a sleek and modern aesthetic. Fashion takes center stage at Selfridges, with high-end brands sharing space with high-street names. The beauty section, while overwhelming, offers a diverse selection of products. Refreshment options range from a Champagne & Caviar Bar to traditional cafes, catering to various preferences. Although it may lack the quintessential department store charm, Selfridges remains a popular destination for fashion enthusiasts.

Photo: Londonist Photo: Londonist

And the Winner Is...

After careful evaluation, Fortnum & Mason emerges as the victor, scoring an impressive 48 out of a possible 60 points. With its rich history, elegant appearance, affable staff, and impeccable stock selection, Fortnum & Mason offers a truly exceptional shopping experience. It's no wonder why this iconic store reigns supreme among London's department stores.

So, next time you find yourself in London, make sure to pay a visit to Fortnum & Mason and indulge in the timeless elegance that has earned it the title of the city's best department store.

Remember, shopping is not just about the products; it's about the experience and the memories created along the way. Happy shopping!