Pretty much any Londoner (or luxury biscuit connoisseur) would recognise the distinct eau de nil shopfront of Fortnum & Mason. F&M is one of this city’s most recognisable and beloved department stores, a shoppers’ paradise with immaculately-arranged shelves, a delectable food hall and several floors of swish luxury goods. As well as, of course, its legendarily fancy teas and posh jams.
But like so many retail businesses, the Christmas season was hectic for Fortnums – and has led to it needing to expand. The store has since made the decision to relocate its main UK warehouse to Corby in Northamptonshire, which offers double the space.
The 317-year-old retailer experienced a surge in orders which put ‘real pressure on our infrastructure’, according to Tim Athron, the chief executive. Over the five weeks in the run-up to Christmas eve, sales rose by 17 percent, and over 400,000 orders were processed, some for as far as Bermuda and New Zealand.
He told the Telegraph: ‘At that incredibly busy time, the spike that we see at Christmas is really quite substantially bigger than probably any other retailer in the country.’
It was also reported that customer service queues were long over the Christmas period, and some customers were charged more than once for a transaction. Not ideal when some items, such as the Camellia White wicker hamper, can set you back up to £2,150. Oof.
Smaller Fortnums warehouses across the UK will be closed, and 94 jobs are up for consultation. But the iconic department store is by no means struggling.
Since Athron took over in 2020, Fortnums has tried to shed its image as a grocer for only the elite – and given it saw a 12 percent increase in annual sales in the year to July 2023, that strategy seems to have worked. The flagship Piccadilly store is now home to a ‘creative hub’ for food and drink, a test kitchen and even a gin distillery, and there’s even talk of a store opening in the US, but that’s hasn’t been confirmed.
Shopping in London
London is a world-class shopping destination, even if it can be a little spenny. From all these cracking markets to the 100 best shops across the city, there are plenty of places for a bit of retail therapy. Have a look at our comprehensive shopping and style hub here.
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