On this day in history….22nd June 1959

On this day in history : 22nd June 1959 – Shareholders are urged by the directors of Harrods to vote for a merger with the Debenhams department store chain in a £34m deal….

Harrods was started by Charles Henry Harrod as a grocery business in 1849…. His son, Charles Digby took over in 1861 and started to sell a varied range, including furniture, china, cosmetics and perfumes…. Since the 1920s it has become one of the most famous and prestigious department stores in the world….

Fashion plate, 1909 – Fashionable Londoners walking in front of Harrods – Public domain

Over the years Harrods and Debenhams had become informally linked – an official merger would provide a way of cutting overhead costs, resources could be pooled when purchasing stock…. However, as it was Harrods was in the position that two merger possibilities were available to them – the one with Debenhams and a further unofficial one, as yet, with House of Fraser…. Harrods directors began to hold meetings to discuss the options…. The Debenhams deal included an offer of £34m – and would allow Harrods to continue to operate under its own name, with Sir Richard Burbridge as chairman…. Whereas the House of Fraser offer was for £32.5m and the deal would give Harrods directors far less power in the running of the merged company…. It was thought that a merger between Debenhams and Harrods would provide much improved services for the shopping public – the board urged its shareholders to vote for the Debenhams deal….

A third bid of £36m then came in from United Drapery Stores….but was later withdrawn…. The bidding war raged on with House of Fraser raising its bid to 37m and on the 24th of August 1959 it had acquired enough shares to see off the competition from Debenhams…. The battle was over….

In 1985 House of Fraser was bought by Mohammad al Fayed and his brother for £615m and Harrods returned to private ownership…. In 1994 all House of Fraser stores were floated on the Stock Exchange – with the exception of Harrods….

Image credit : Diliff – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0

On this day in history….17th December 1983

On this day in history: 17th December 1983 – An IRA terrorist car bomb explodes outside Harrods Department Store, in Knightsbridge, Central London – killing 6 people and injuring a further 92….

Elliott Brown via Flickr

At 12.44pm a call, using a code word, was made to the Central London branch of the Samaritans…. The caller said there was a car bomb outside Harrods and a further two bombs inside the store…. The car registration number was given but not a description of the car…. It was also claimed that further bombs had been placed on Oxford Street and in the Littlewoods store on Oxford Street…. Much of the message proved to be false information – and the police had already received 22 similar calls about suspicious devices that day – all of which were false alarms…. However, following receipt of the warning, the police immediately started to search – but did not evacuate the area….

At just before 1.30pm, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, a Saturday just before Christmas, a car bomb containing 25-30lb of explosives and detonated by a timer, exploded…. It had been placed inside a 1972 blue Austin 1300 GT 4-door saloon car, parked close to the side entrance of Harrods, in Hans Crescent…. Five people died at the scene and another later in hospital…. Of these six, three were police officers and three were members of the public; a reporter, an American citizen and a young mother…. Another 92 people were injured, including 14 police officers….

Image via Pinterest

Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, expressed his revulsion at such a cold-blooded and cowardly attack…. The day following the bombing the IRA admitted responsibility….

As a result Scotland Yard increased security in Central London – hundreds of extra police and mobile bomb squads were drafted in…. Harrods, despite the damage, reopened three days later….the owners said they would not be defeated by acts of terrorism….