Home Business NewsBusiness These are Harrods’ five biggest controversies

These are Harrods’ five biggest controversies

by LLB Reporter
30th Oct 15 12:05 pm

As London’s biggest department store cuts dividend payments to its Qatari owners

Harrods sees 15 million shoppers through its doors every year yet turnover has slid for the luxury retailer.

Turnover fell from £794m to £769m for the year ending 31 January but pre-tax profits rose from £140.4m to £146.3m in the same period.

Harrods’ owners, Qatar Holding, received a dividend of £103m, down from £150m in the previous year.

The store’s gross transaction value, the total amount of money registered by tills, rose by 1.2% to £1.39bn.

Harrods was bought by Qatar Holding, which is owned by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, for an estimated £1.5bn in 2010.

The store is set to create a new entrance hall in January as part of a £20m scheme.

The grade II listed building is to get 16 sets of double escalators “clad in a sinuous sheath of nickel bronze”.

The new figures aren’t expected to dent the future of London’s biggest department store but it sure has courted a lot of controversies. Take a look at the five biggest hullabaloos surrounding Harrods:

1. Mohammad Al Fayed removed and burnt the royal crests that were put up on the wall of Harrods


Harrods royal crests

Harrods removed Her Majesty The Queen’s royal warrant on 27 December, 2000

In what was the biggest controversy Harrods has ever seen, Mohammad Al Fayed, its previous owner, burnt the royal crests that were put up on the wall of the store.

Al Fayed had the royal crests of The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother and the Prince of Wales, removed in 2000 and later burnt them in his country estate near Oxted in Surrey.

The burning has been captured in a documentary on Princess Diana’s death in which Al Fayed branded the Duke of Edinburgh a “Nazi”.

In the documentary, he said: “I am destroying these royal crests as a tribute to my son Dodi.

“There was a clear verdict of unlawful killing, so why has nobody been arrested? What is at the core of all this is racism.

“Powerful people in this country — my country — don’t want to hear me talking about Prince Philip’s Nazi background, but I have to, because it is 100% true.

“They wouldn’t accept me or my son, and when he fell in love with Diana, they murdered him.”


2. Hindu underwear

In June 2004, Harrods was forced to apologise to its customers for selling underwear bearing images of Hindu goddesses.

Designed by Roberto Cavalli, the garments were taken off the shelves for upsetting Hindu Human Rights, a religious group.

A spokesperson from the group said at the time: “When we heard that Harrods was selling such garments, we registered our protest. We cannot bear the insult to our religion.

“Our goddesses are revered by millions of Hindus. How can somebody use them for such purposes? We sent Harrods a large number of signatures protesting against it.”

The store said: “We apologise to those customers who have been offended or distressed by the situation.”


3. Banning soldiers on Poppy Day

In 2012, Lieutenant Daniel Lenherr was banned from entering Harrods hours after taking part in a parade honouring Britain’s war dead.

Why? Because the security guard thought Lenherr’s uniform will intimidate shoppers.

His wife Michelle told the Standard: “We were horrified when we were refused entry on a day when we honoured the men who sacrificed so much for our freedom. I find it sad this can happen.”

Mark Harper, who was shadow defence minister at the time said: “It’s an outrageous slap in the face to our Armed Forces who are serving our country around the world. On Remembrance Sunday it’s even more of an insult. I cannot see any legitimate reason for a shop not to let in members of the Armed Forces in uniform.”


4. Boycott calls for Harrods for Qatar’s alleged links to terrorist groups

Last year, protesters called for a Harrods boycott after executions of hostages in Syria and the violence by the Islamic State in Iraq. Protestors were up in arms for Qatar’s alleged links to terrorist groups.

Mark Lewis, the solicitor who represented the family of Milly Dowler in the News of the World phone hacking scandal, was among the people calling for the boycott.

Lewis said: “We can stand back and do nothing, but when we do, we are paying for that terror … People need to know where their money is going.

“While people know very little about Qatar, its wealth has bought some of the crown jewels of English property. It owns the Shard, it owns Harrods, it might as well own our morals.

“The scale of its commercial holdings is such that most of us do not even realise that we are buying into its terrorist operations.”

A string of protests led by groups like the Sussex Friends of Israel were carried out outside the Qatari embassy.


5. Fights over fur

Harrods fur protest

Anti-fur campaigners and Harrods have been at loggerheads for over a decade. So much so, that protestors demonstrate outside Harrods’ doors every other week.

In one such incident, protesters were criticised for causing a “nuisance” outside Harrods when Lady Gaga made an appearance at the store in October 2012.

This sparked a legal battle between the anti-fur campaigners and Harrods.

In June 2013, Harrods won its case against the campaigners and tightened restrictions on protests outside the store.

Justice Globe said: “It is Harrods’ case that the (protesters) positioned themselves at the front of the crowds with banners and placards, in and amongst families and children, causing a nuisance, annoyance and harassment to members of the public in attendance enjoying the event,” said the judge.

“From statements, photographs and CCTV evidence, I have a very clear understanding of the nature of the event and what happened on this occasion.”


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