Fortnum & Mason: World Leader in Retail with PR to Match

By James Knight.

Based in its iconic Piccadilly store, Fortnum & Mason is one of the most recognisably British brands. During the pandemic they have used PR with great success and are now looking forward to Christmas 2021.

I always visit the store at Christmas, from the Christmas windows to the beautiful food hall, chocolates, and gifts for myself, it has a very special festive feel about it.

Let’s look at the history, 314 years old, dating back to 1707 when it was established by Hugh Mason in St James Market, in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London.

They had their own postal service in 1794 well before the Post Office we recognise came about in 1839 and the legendary Penny Black stamp came into existence a year later in 1840.

Tea was fit for a King in 1902 Edward VII asked for Fortnum & Mason tea, and the store sent hampers to the Suffragettes in 1911.

In 1922 the hampers went even further when they ascended with the Everest expeditions, 60 tins of quail and foie gras, four bottles of dozen champagne.

The Scotch egg was created in 1938 at the store, hard-boiled egg in sausage meat and coating, I do love them with mustard, a very unique piece of publicity for the store.

My final look into history is from 2008: roof top bees took-up residence, you can enjoy the honey for yourselves, delicious.

Let’s Look at Their PR

The brand have combined on and off-line successfully, great credit to them, converting footfall to online traffic is not always easy to achieve, by driving awareness of Fortnum’s home delivery online store.

They crafted press releases for occasions, which focused on products which could be used as home cocktail kits for say, birthdays. Hospitality home delivery service for Fortnum & Mason restaurants and gifted press takeaway items.

During both lockdown and the store reopening the team worked to keep all media updated with the latest information including Covid safety messages that are in place.

In terms of Christmas, what is so unique is the wonderful displays with people just admiring the windows.

I shall be visiting Fortnum & Mason shortly to buy unique presents. When browsing the store, you never know who you will meet. On one summer’s day I saw the great late comedian Ronnie Corbett, I went up to him, he started talk to me about buying a present for somebody, then in complete surprise asked me to join him for afternoon tea, what a wonderful surprise.

Professor James Knight is an international businessman, public relations practitioners and academic. He was Fellow of Bournemouth University Public Relations School, guest speaker at Judge Cambridge, Surrey, Bath and Reading, International Mentor for Oxford Brookes on Hospitality. He is a Fellow of CIPR and the Society of Public Relations of America, as well as a fellow of the Institute of Directors.

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