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Harrods vs. Neiman Marcus: Which Luxury Department Story Is King?

The UK and American retailers offer an assortment of special goods—but which do you favor more?

Harrods vs. Neiman Marcus Alamy/Neiman Marcus

Stumped by what to get friends and family for the holidays? There’s a Robb Report Ultimate Gift Guide for that, but perusing the shelves of a major luxury retailer can help, too, we suppose. In Harrods and Neiman Marcus, you have two of the finest stores that have long histories of pulling out all the stops for the festive season. Which is more worthy of your big December splurge?

 

Harrods

Neiman Marcus

FOUNDED BY

Henry Charles Harrod in 1849. It was originally a grocery store—which goes a long way in explaining the first floor’s culinary Disneyland.

Charles Henry Harrod

Charles Henry Harrod.  Supplied

FOUNDED BY

Herbert Marcus, his sister Carrie Marcus Neiman and her husband, A. L. Neiman, in 1907. They passed on an opportunity to invest in the barely-on-the-radar Coca-Cola brand to make it happen. Whoops.

A. L. and Carrie Neiman

A. L. and Carrie Neiman.  Supplied

MOTTO

Omnia, Omnibus, Ubique, or “All Things, for All People, Everywhere.” A better version might be Omnia, Divitibus, Ubique, or “All Things, for the Affluent, Everywhere.”

MOTTO

Its most notable slogan is its holiday one, which changes every year. For 2021, it’s “Celebrate Big, Love Even Bigger,” which is corporate-speak for “All Things, for the Affluent, Everywhere.”

CREATURE FEATURE

An Egyptian cobra guarded a pair of $120,000 Rene Caovilla diamond-encrusted shoe in 2007. (Snake not included with purchase.)

Cobra protects Harrods sandals

The Egyptian cobra with the diamond-studded shoes.  Alamy

CREATURE FEATURE

One of the brand’s first Christmas-catalog offerings was a live Black Angus steer with, erm, an accompanying roast-beef cart.

Black Angus bull

The Black Angus bull.  Adobe Stock

DID IT FIRST

Installation of an escalator, or “moving staircase” as it was referred to then, in England. The year was 1898; traumatized customers were offered brandy and smelling salts to calm their nerves once they reached the top.

DID IT FIRST

In 1984, Neiman’s became the first luxury retailer to have a customer-loyalty program. Spend $10,000 a year and a concierge will book dinners and arrange travel for you.

WEIRDEST THING SOLD

A “Welcome Present for Friends at the Front” during WWI. The kit contained cocaine, morphine and syringes.

Harrods WWI Kit

The Harrods WWI Kit.  Supplied

WEIRDEST THING SOLD

His-and-hers mummy cases in its 1971 Christmas catalog. When they arrived at the Florida store, the manager found a genuine corpse inside one.

Neiman Marcus Mummy Cases

Mummy cases offered by Neiman Marcus.  Supplied

PIVOT

Shuttered its pet department in 2014 to make way for a women’s fashion floor, trading a pet spa, diamond-studded collars and live animals for skirts and dresses.

PIVOT

Shuttered its NYC store in Hudson Yards after just 16 months there, despite having signed a 50-year lease. Turns out, plans change. (Read: Chapter 11.)

GOOD EATS

The sprawling food hall includes selections of chocolate wine, sushi and plenty of caviar. A bell rings every half hour to signal the arrival of fresh bread.

Harrods Food Hall

Caviar offered at Harrods.  Adobe Stock

GOOD EATS

In keeping with its carnivore theme, you can buy whole turkeys at Neiman’s online store.

Neiman Marcus Roasted Turkey

The herb-roasted turkey.  Alison Marras/Unsplash

SANTA SHOWING

Barring a global pandemic, kids can meet Santa at the in-store Christmas grotto… if their parents have spent $2,700 or more at Harrods during the year. Ah, the sweet spirit of the season.

Neiman Marcus Christmas

Santa Claus at Harrods.  LM Otero/AP Images

SANTA SHOWING

Kids can schedule a virtual meetup with Santa for 2021. Like the rest of the working-from- home world, St. Nick will call in via Zoom.

Santa Claus on video call

Santa Claus on a video call with a child.  Alamy

AKA

The Londonist referred to the store as a “louche palace for the bolshy” in 2015.

AKA

Foes and fans alike call it Needless Markup.

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