The History Of Harvey Nichols In 1 Minute

Image courtesy of Harvey Nichols
Image courtesy of Harvey Nichols
Harriet Clugston

One of the most famous department stores in both London and the world, along with Harrods, Selfridges, and Liberty, Harvey Nichols sells fashion, accessories, beauty products, wine, and food from its flagship and chain stores. Here’s what you need to know about the luxury retailer’s near 200-year-long history.
Harvey Nichols began life in 1831, when Benjamin Harvey opened a small linen shop in a terraced house in Knightsbridge. Four years later he expanded into the building next door, as the business grew.

In 1841, the Nichols half of the equation came onto the scene, when Harvey employed James Nichols. Four years later, he was promoted to management, and joined the family in 1948 when he married Harvey’s niece.

After the death of Harvey in 1850, his wife Anne began a partnership with Nichols, and the store became Harvey Nichols & Co. After the deaths of both Anne and Nichols in 1972 and 1973, Harvey’s son Benjamin Charles Harvey became the sole partner. He quickly set about with further expansion, buying up an entire block between Seville Street and Sloane Street in 1874. In 1889, he demolished the building to create a purpose-built department store — the building Londoners know today.

The store opened a range of new departments in 1919, including fancy lace, hosiery, and haberdashery, but suffered in the Suffragettes’ window smashing campaign, being bought by Debenhams in 1920.

Images courtesy of Harvey Nichols

By the 1980s, Harvey Nichols had made a name for itself with a history of taking risks with new designers, and encouraging them to create mixed collections rather than focusing on a single department.

In 1975, they opened Harvey’s restaurant on the fifth floor, which was frequented by Princess Diana. In 1992, this fifth floor space was transformed into a new restaurant, café, bar, and food market, served by an innovative direct access lift, allowing it to remain open after the store had closed. It became a huge society favourite, and was associated with the champagne lifestyle of Knightsbridge — Eddie and Patsy of Ab Fab were big fans.

Today, Harvey Nichols operates seven stores within the UK — five large department stores, two small-format boutiques, and a beauty concept store — and a further seven department stores around the world. Each large store has a top floor space similar to the one in Knightsbridge, while the company also own and run the hugely successful riverside restaurant, bar, and brasserie at the top of OXO Tower.

📅 Monday to Saturday 10AM – 9PM, Sunday 11:30AM – 6PM (Fifth Floor restaurant, bar, café, and market open later)

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