Fortnum & Mason is a 300-year old classy department store located in Piccadilly,London. This privately held British company is known for its teas, sauces and jams, and has the distinction of providing the Queen with her yearly supply of puddings, Christmas puddings specifically.
Fortnum & Mason’s history started back in 1705, when the Fortnum family had come from Oxford to London and William Fortnum rented a room above Hugh Mason’s small shop at the St. James Market.
While William was working as a footman in the royal household, he noticed that the Royal family always wanted fresh candles each night, leaving the previously used candles only half-consumed. William saw the half-used candles as an opportunity to earn. Thus, while he used his wages as payment for his room’s rental, his sideline of selling candles earned him enough to start a business of his own. Eventually, Fortnum & Mason collaborated to put up a grocery business, which earned respectably since it started.
Beginning in 1714, Fortnum & Mason benefited from the rise of the Georgian era, when the trade explosion made it possible for people to spend more than ever. New routes had been discovered and transportation became reliable, and London was the centre of everything that had been happening. The arrival of the East India Company in 1744 paved the way for Fortnum & Mason’s venture in the tea business. Fortnum & Mason was able to sell various goods, like spices, from India that was appealing to many British consumers.
In 1851, Fortnum & Mason received first prize for the area of importing dessert goods and dried fruits. At this time, the business already had a wide variety of food products for sale, including luxury foods that were ‘ready-to-eat.’
In 1886, Fortnum & Mason again saw an opportunity for a new market. It was the year that Mr. Heinz brought cases of sample products from the USA. Fortnum & Mason recognized Mr. Heinz’s baked beans as a future staple in the country and soon partnered with him to sell the product in their stores. In the succeeding years, the business continued to do well and expand its line of products.
By 1925, Fortnum & Mason started undergoing major refurbishments. New departments, such as children’s clothes, women’s fashion, perfumes and kitchenware were added to its stores to cater to the different needs of its customers. In 1930, the company bought a 7-storey establishment on Madison Ave. to cater to more and more consumer demands.
In 1999, Fortnum & Mason entered the online community when it launched its first online shop, selling primarily 50 kinds of hampers (food baskets). The company wanted to widen its customer base and reach those from faraway places through the digital world.
From just selling hampers, the online shop now sells more that 800 kinds of products. Beginning in 2004, the company also started operations in different parts of the globe, such as Japan.
Ownership Type: Private
Geography: Great Britain, Japan
Demography: retail products consumers
Fortnum & Mason Customer Care: +44 (0)20 7734 8040
Fortnum & Mason®