6 Oldest Department Stores in the World

Department stores exist in countries all over the world. They sell all kinds of items in one place, and they are some of the most fun places to visit when you’re in the mood for a great shopping trip. In this article, we’re going to take you through a list of the oldest department stores in the world, so let’s get right into it.

6 Oldest Department Stores

6. Lojas Americanas

Year founded: 1929
Founder of the company: Max Landesmann, John Lee, Glen Matson, James Marshall, Bastian Bartoli, Batson Borger
Company headquarters: Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

Lojas AmericanasPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Lojas Americanas has been around for almost a hundred years, making it one of the world’s oldest department stores! It’s fascinating to note that this company was founded by a group of Americans who went to Buenos Aires in Argentina with the intention of starting a five-and-dime store over there. However, they met two Brazilians on their trip and changed their plans, and ended up going to Brazil instead.

After doing some market research in Brazil, they realized that Brazil was in desperate need of a department store that allowed customers to purchase multiple affordable types of items in a single place. They also realized that finding potential employees was easy, and eventually, they set up their first store.

Did you know?

Lojas Americanas filed for bankruptcy in 2023.


5. Harrods

Year founded: 1849
Founder of the company: Charles Henry Harrod
Company headquarters: 87–135 Brompton Road London, SW1

HarrodsPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Harrods is, in addition to being one of the oldest department stores in the world, is also one of the best known department stores! Although this retail company was first started by Charles Henry Harrod in 1849, Harrod had already established himself as a savvy and capable businessman 20 years prior.

When he was only 24, Harrod ran a business where he served as a haberdasher, draper, and mercer and worked at it for over a year. Some years later, he established and ran a grocery store that specialized in tea. He began running his business out of a small shop called Brompton, and in the years that followed, his son helped him expand the grocery store into a thriving retail empire. As the years passed, Harrod’s business saw multiple successes and failures, and has since evolved into the retail empire we know today.

Did you know?

Some of Harrod’s earliest customers included Oscar Wilde, Sigmund Freud, Beatrix Potter, Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward, and Vivien Leigh.


4. David Jones

Year founded: 1838
Founder of the company: David Jones
Company headquarters: Two Melbourne Quarter, 697 Collins Street, Docklands, Victoria, Australia

David JonesPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Although David Jones is an Australian luxury department store, it might interest you to know that this retail empire was founded by a Welsh man named David Jones who had immigrated to Australia in the 19th century. The business has quite an interesting origin story! When Jones was in London, he met a businessman named Charles Appleton, who was from Hobart. Appleton had already established his own store in Australia, and after some discussion, set up a partnership with Jones.

Jones moved to Australia, and their store was later renamed Appleton and Jones. Unfortunately, their partnership ended some years later, and David Jones moved his business elsewhere. He was lucky enough to survive the Depression of the 1840s. Over the next couple of decades, he faced various trials and problems but eventually managed to get his department store up and running.

Did you know?

David Jones is the world’s oldest department store that still trades under its first and original name.


3. Le Bon Marché

Year founded: 1838
Founder of the company: Paul Videau and Justin Videau
Company headquarters: Paris, France

Le Bon MarchéPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Le Bon Marché was first founded in 1838 as a novelty shop! The two brothers who founded it were named Paul and Justin Videau, and they sold things like lace, mattresses, umbrellas, bedsheets, and ribbons, among other things. When their shop first started, it had four separate departments and 12 employees, and a store that was over 3,000 square feet.

Some years later, in 1852, an entrepreneur named Aristide Boucicaut partnered with the store. He helped turn things around by revising their marketing plan, adding fixed prices to all the items, and included guarantees for customers that allowed them to exchange their goods.

Did you know?

Le Bon Marché was purchased by Bernard Arnault in 1987.


2. Kendals

Year founded: 1836
Founder of the company: John Watts
Company headquarters: 98–116 Deansgate, Manchester, England

KendalsPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Kendals is the second oldest department store in the world! This company was first started in 1836 by John Watts, who ran his own drapery business. He opened his business in Deansgate, and after it became quite successful, he moved it to a different and bigger location in another part of Deansgate. In 1919, his business was purchased by Harrods.

It’s interesting to note that the business was renamed Harrods for a short time, but after its employees and customers protested, its name was changed to Kendal Milne. Some years later, both Kendals and Harrods were taken over by the House of Fraser, and although they began to trade under the same name, the name Kendal, Milne, and Co remains.

Did you know?

Kendals was named for three employees who bought out John Watts’ drapery business, and for a time, the business was called Kendal, Milne & Faulkner.


1. Mitsukoshi

Year founded: 1673
Founder of the company: Mitsui Takatoshi
Company headquarters: 1-4-1 Nihonbashi-Muromachi, Chūō, Tokyo, Japan

MitsukoshiPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mitsukoshi is the oldest department store in the world! It’s interesting to note that this store was started under the name Echigoya. This retail empire was first started back in 1673, and its original shop actually sold kimonos. Some years later, the shop owners decided to take a turn and go about marketing their products in a different way, and sold their kimonos from a physical store, instead of going door-to-door.

Over the years, this shop turned into a department store, eventually becoming one of the most successful stores in the world, and the first-ever department store as well! By the time the 20th century rolled around, Mitsukoshi became Japan’s most prestigious store.

Did you know?

Mitsukoshi decided to expand its presence in Asia and opened its first international branch in the Philippines in 2022.


Conclusion

In this article, we took a closer look at the world’s oldest department stores. Although these businesses are huge today, they all had humble beginnings. We hope that you learned something new about these department stores today.

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