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Biz History: Harvey Nichols

Harvey Nichols, founded in 1813, is an upmarket department store chain. Its original store is in London. Founded in 1813 as a linen shop, it offers many of the world's most prestigious brands in womenswear, menswear, accessories, beauty and food. Harvey Nichols attracts more younger shoppers than its rival Harrods.

In 1813 Benjamin Harvey opened a linen shop in a terraced house on the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street in London. Benjamin Harvey bequeathed his business to his daughter Elizabeth in 1820, on the condition that the business’s present silk buyer, Colonel Nichols, was taken on as a partner. This partnership gradually widened the store’s stock to include Oriental textiles and furnishings; Harvey Nichols’ carpets were particularly in demand.

The business flourished in this newly fashionable location, near the original Crystal Palace, which housed the Great Exhibition in 1851. The present splendid premises were opened in the 1880s and extended in 1932. In 1914 a Harvey Nichols advertisement in the Times boasted that their tailor-made suits and mantles are made under the supervision of an expert Viennese cutter and fitter. Perfect style and fit guaranteed.’ But like several other venerable luxury stores in west London, supply difficulties hit their profits during WWI and they merged with Debenhams Ltd. (q.v.) in 1919.

Harvey Nichols retained its unique and exclusive character, which has been exploited and amplified by new owners since 1991. They were listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1996 and large premises, their first regional branches, were opened in Leeds and Edinburgh in 1996 and 2002 respectively. From its own-label tailoring to high-end designer concessions of all varieties, Harvey Nichols has maintained its reputation as purveyor of luxury goods and garments to moneyed gentlefolk (both established and aspiring) everywhere for well over a hundred years.
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