I have mixed feeling about Harrods. On one hand it is a London icon. It has been a department store in London since 1824. Its history is interesting, being the first store in London to install a ‘moving staircase’in 1898. It has served the likes of A.A. Milne, Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward, Charlie Chaplin, and various members of the royal family.
It sells a little of everything. Okay, it sells a lot of everything. I started in the food area and skipped most of the clothing: slacks, dresses, purses, shoes, custom made suits. You can buy books, fountain pens, stationery, air hockey tables, gold (I mean gold, not jewelery, although they sell that, too), and — by appointment only— bullet-proof clothing.
I had been looking forward to wandering through the racks of Kevlar vests hanging on the racks next to the Hermes scarves, but apparently that isn”t how the department works. Besides, the Hermes department was four floors down from Bullet Proof Clothing.
The clothing and accessories are famous names. Even I have heard of some of the names. But really, fashionable shopping is wasted on me. I love the idea of looking elegant, but I love my flannel shirts and jeans too much to do anything about it.
So there I was, wandering through the most famous department store in the western hemisphere, wondering if I would get kicked out for violating the dress code. Jeans, scuffed-up muddy Eastlands, and a Goodwill purchased shirt boasting a Cabella”s label. Other than being ignored at the food sample stands, though, no one seemed to care how I was dressed. While I drooled over the $4000 fountain pens, I actually had two sales associated ask if I needed help. Maybe they were just concerned I was in the wrong store and were willing to give me directions to the nearest Asda. ‘You know, there”s an Ikea just down the street,’ they were thinking.
While having this fascination with seeing the famous London department store, and wondering how the upper echelon lives, I hate paying for a name. I have an aversion to paying grandiose amounts of money for anything, unless the quality is such that the price covers the long years of use I will get out if it. My favourite purse, for example. I used it for almost ten years. Of course, I spent almost $100 on it. I about died handing over that much money for a purse. But I used it for years and years.
And there I was in Harrods staring at purses costing 10 times that.
I do not understand fashion, and I confuse it with quality. Are the goods in Harrods worth their price? Or even, taking into consideration a typical 30% mark-up, are they worth two thirds of their price?
Are customers paying for a name? It is a famous name. Are customers paying for quality? Famous does not necessarily mean quality. But, sometimes it does. I guess I’ll never know until I try.
Harrods. I went. I saw. I bought.