As the Landmark prepares to close its doors after less than two years, we look at the history of department stores in Harrow, starting with Sopers
As fashions – and stores – fall in and out of style, Harrow’s town centre has had its fair share of changes over the years. In May 2021, many Harrovians – along with the rest of the country – mourned the demise of Debenhams; a national institution since 1778 and, in this article, we’re looking at shopping in Harrow through the ages.
In the early 1900s, the highly desirable 220,000 square-foot site on Station Road was home to Sopers – a department store chain founded in 1860 by Samuel Henry Soper. Opened 49 years before Harry Gordon Selfridge changed the way we shop in the UK, Sopers was a formal store in which products would be kept behind the counter to be brought out for inspection by customers. The first of its kind in Harrow, eager shoppers from around the borough would flock to the store to buy the latest fashions and cosmetics.
In the 1960s, the Soper’s store became Debenhams, offering six floors of clothing, cosmetics and homewares to Harrow’s shoppers. This thoroughly modern store actually traced its roots back to 1778 and a store on Wigmore Street owned by William Clark. By 1813, the store in the fashionable West End became Clark & Debenham and began extending out to the suburbs; making it more accessible to those without access to central London. The retail chain went on to reach dizzy heights, with 200 large stores spread across 18 countries and became a familiar site on high streets across the UK. Sadly, in 2019, Debenhams went into administration and began to close the doors of the popular stores. In 2021, during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the store in Harrow shut up shop for good.
Following the closure of Debenhams, Harrow folk began to speculate about what might replace it – but they didn’t have to wait long. In November of 2021, the Mayor of Harrow cut the red ribbon to officially open the new department store on the site, The Landmark. Unfortunately, after some initial excitement, shoppers were left unimpressed with many saying that the store was ‘chaotic’ and ‘like a jumble sale’. Things took a sinister turn in 2022 when shoppers would often arrive to find the store closed during premium shopping times and, this month, it was announced that the store would be closing – only 14 months after it opened.
As yet, there has been no announcement regarding what might replace this piece of the prime retail estate, however, that hasn’t stopped Harrovians from speculating, with suggestions ranging from a homeware store such as The Range or B&M to swanky tech shops such as Apple. Speculate as we might, we will, however, just have to wait and see!