Fortnum & Mason: A Christmas icon

01 December 2022, 10:38 AM
  • Dr. Andrea Tanner, Fortnum & Mason archivist, shares the history, magic and planning that goes into creating an internationally renowned festive destination
Fortnum & Mason: A Christmas icon

We were founded in St. James’s in 1707, by William Fortnum (a footman to Queen Anne) and Hugh Mason, who owned a livery stable off Duke Street. Beginning with candles, made from part-used palace candles, the company soon became famous for tea, coffee, exotic fruits, and wines.

Responding to the needs of its customers, in the 18th century, the company invented the ‘scotched’ egg for travellers, created unparalleled picnic baskets, and sourced the very best in British and overseas specialities for its customers worldwide.

Everyone remembers their first encounter with us, and no wonder – over our centuries of history, we have been committed to delivering a sense of pleasure to anyone who walks through our doors.

Fortnum’s has been a ‘must visit’ destination for over 300 Christmases. Charles Dickens wrote about the glorious sights, sounds and smells of Fortnum & Mason on Christmas Eve, and this tradition of creating a beautiful festive space, filled with old favourites and new seasonal produce has continued to this day.

Customers come to find the plum puddings, Elvas Plums, candied fruits, handmade chocolates, mince pies and turkeys that they have known all their lives, but there is always something new to discover – like our pickled Brussels sprouts, for example.

Everyone interested in delicious things to eat and drink shops at Fortnum’s. Customers come from all over the world, and also from around the corner. Some customers start Christmas with a visit to Piccadilly, or on our website. We have those who come but once a year, while others are weekly friends.

Fortnum’s is the home of all things Christmas, and this can be experienced through the beautiful displays on the shop floor, tastings, and events – and the iconic windows, which have been delighting Londoners since early in Queen Victoria’s reign.

Each year we put our heart and soul into creating a magical experience for our visitors, from the initial design concept to the recipes for products and in the restaurants, and the beautiful packaging. It takes a huge amount of care, thought and effort, and we are thrilled when our customers approve of our Christmas specialities.

It is important to us that we create unexpected, exciting, and entertaining displays. Each part of the store should be joyful for both our adult and younger customers. We try to find ways to weave charm, wit, and humour into the designs., so that you go home enchanted by the experience.

Our customers are all over the world, and we want to include them in the magic of Piccadilly, which is why we share as much as we can on our social channels for as many people as possible to enjoy – wherever they happen to be. The Christmas atrium display is popular with our Piccadilly visitors.

Each scheme can be viewed from every floor, which inspires customers to engage with the story of the display. We love creating new and exciting displays for this magical, light-filled space.

It is our heartfelt wish to create joy in an uncertain world. Watching our customers’ delight in the variety of festive displays in our Piccadilly home and our other stores is a hugely rewarding part of the job.

At Fortnum’s, service is at heart of what we do. We strive to be totally customer-focused in all areas of the business and aim to provide an exceptional customer experience and journey to our customers. We endeavour always to go above and beyond for our customers, for they are the most important people to everyone at Fortnum’s.

Christmas is our busiest time of year, so across our operations we bring several hundred people (mostly students and young people) to help. Additionally, everyone from head office gets involved on the shop floor during the festive period.

You might find the chair or the chief executive – or even the archivist – filling the shelves or serving you at the tills.

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