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Christmas in London

Christmas shopping in London is more than just going out, buying what you need and going home again. It’s an event. It’s a full day out that takes in inevitable sightseeing, a couple of coffee stops, the actual shopping and some lunch or an early dinner in a nice pub or restaurant.

We all have fond memories of going into London to ‘see the windows’. Everyone knows what that means and it was a highlight of the year. If you don’t, the premise was simple. Each of the department stores (along Oxford Street and Regent Street predominantly) would dress up their storefront windows with the most magical displays and we’d be captivated by their Christmassy themes. Today of course we see it as a cynical marketing ploy to get us to buy their stuff but that aside, it was something we loved and that tradition continues today.

It wasn’t always like this though. The humble department store rose, not coincidentally, alongside growth of a consumerist society in the early years of the 19th century. Entrepreneurs like Josiah Wedgewood (the cups and saucers guy) pioneered what we now call marketing to influence the tastes and trends of the day. To this end, window shopping became a legitimate leisure activity and department stores acted as safe havens for Georgian ‘society’ women with disposable income who could shop unaccompanied without a slight on their closely-protected reputations.

Oxford St 1800s
Oxford Street in the late 1800s

There is some conjecture as to what was the first department store and it seems like the truth has been consigned to the annals of history but Kendal’s in Manchester (now House of Fraser) has been trading under various guises since 1796 and has a legitimate claim. If you know of an older department store, tell us on Twitter@EuracomLondon!

Perhaps the most famous department store in the world is Harrods in Knightsbridge.  A former grocery store located in a grim part of London’s East End, Charles Henry Harrod saw a gap in the market when the East India Company lost its monopoly on tea pricing in the 1830s and swooped. Harrods moved into semi-rural Knightsbridge around 1850 and started on a path to greatness.

Harrods Lights
Over 12,000 bulbs light up Harrods every night

Harrods claimed to sell literally everything ‘from a pin to an elephant’ and this claim was put to the test by then Governor of California Ronald Reagan who called the store to ask ‘do you sell elephants?’ ‘Would sir prefer African or Indian’ came the reply!

A million square feet of shopping space was sold by Chairman Mohamed Al Fayed for £1.5b to the ruling family of the emirate of Qatar soon after his son Dodi Al Fayed was killed in the Paris car crash that also claimed the life of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.

London is home to a vast array of department stores (all of which, ironically, sell basically the same stuff) including:

Debenhams – recently the subject of a £25m makeover on Oxford Street

Fenwicks – on Bond Street is at the luxury end of the scale

Fortnum & Mason – not usually considered a ‘department store’ and they have come under fire in recent years for their insistence on selling foie gras but they do sell luggage, home wares and clothes alongside their world-famous selection of luxury foods

Harvey Nichols – noted as much for its fashion at its restaurant for the beautiful, rich and famous on the fifth floor

House of Fraser – sits perfectly in the space between Debenhams and Harvey Nicks

John Lewis – perhaps the best loved of all, they are ‘never knowingly undersold’

Selfridges – recently the subject of a dramatized TV series, contrary to popular belief, they don’t sell fridges

Selfridges under construction, c.1908

Oxford St 60s
Selfridges on Oxford Street, 1960s

They all have some incredible sales on over Christmas so if you are coming to London to do your Christmas shopping, you better book your accommodation quickly!

Here at Euracom we have some great deals on vacation apartments in London, on the doorstep of the stores, the sights and everything London is famous for! There’s still time to secure your London apartment but we are getting booked up very quickly so don’t delay, call 020 8420 7666 today! You can also email and we’ll get back to you as quickly as we can.

All that’s left for us to do is wish you a very happy Christmas and a healthy New Year. We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you, our loyal clients who have used Euracom in 2014 and we hope to serve you just as well in 2015 and beyond.

By Rob at 8 Dec 2014

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