Fortnum & Mason reports bumper sales of luxury hampers in the run-up to Christmas

From £50 to £5,000, hamper sales surged by 15 per cent

Long hailed by the serious picnicking classes and purveyors of expensive corporate gifts as the world’s poshest lunch box, the Fortnum & Mason hamper has been satisfying the luxury cravings of the British establishment at home and abroad for more than three centuries.

Yet the appetite for high-class potted meats, biscuits and bubbly shows little sign of being sated as London’s oldest grocer reported soaring profits yesterday fuelled in part by the extraordinary success of its famous basket of victuals.

The retailer, which was founded in Piccadilly in 1707, said turnover surged in the run-up to Christmas – defying the experience of less blue-blooded high street rivals Tesco, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer which were all squeezed by the shift to budget supermarkets.

From a humble £50 creel containing tea and marmalade to the £5,000 Imperial collection, complete with royal fillet of salmon, a magnum of Champagne, foie gras and caviar, Fortnum said sales of hampers were up 15 per cent and now stood at at a 300-year high. In total 200,000 hampers were sold by the royal warrant holder in 2013.

It follows the embarrassing debacle in 2011 when a computer glitch at its distribution centre resulted in Fortnum & Mason customers failing to receive their hampers in time for Christmas and the company being forced to compensate irate shoppers

Chief executive Ewan Venters said consumers were opting to concentrate reduced resources on smaller quantities of higher quality goods for loved ones. Despite the influx of foreign wealth to the capital in recent years he said six out of 10 shoppers were from the UK.

“Christmas at Fortnum’s was one of the best yet, both in terms of sales and customer satisfaction.  The demand for more bespoke luxurious items, together with the Christmas staples, is at an all-time high, suggesting that consumers still want to treat themselves during the festive period,” Mr Venters said.

It marks a significant recovery from results posted last year when the company was left counting the cost of its late hampers and a 70 per cent collapse in profits.

But the move towards high end products saw a 133 per cent spike in sales of truffles and growing demand for candles, vintage port and Turkish Delight. There were also record sales of mince pies and Christmas biscuits and puddings.

Total sales up to July were £65m, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year, whilst profit before tax was £1.8m - a five-fold increase on 2012. In the five weeks up to 5 January sales were up 16 per cent with strong growth also reported for on-line goods.

The Fortnum & Mason hamper became a prerequisite for the travelling gentleman of Georgian England disaffected by the prospect of bad roads and even worse food. Many would embark on stage coaches from outside the shop which also claims to have invented the scotch egg around the same time.

The hamper later became a stalwart of the Victorian social summer season and was a required accompaniment to picnics at Cowes, Henley or the Epson Derby. It meanwhile became a symbol of imperial ambition during the high age of empire accompanying Henry Morton Stanley on his adventures up the Congo as well as providing succour to Florence Nightingale’s patients in the Crimea.

The unsuccessful 1922 Everest expedition was fuelled in 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of vintage champagne supplied by the shop. Since then other retailers have sought a share of the market with nearly all major department stores now offering their own version.

In 2011 the store was targeted by protesters from UK Uncut demonstrating over alleged tax avoidance.

This year Fortnum opened a new store at London’s St Pancras station– the first since its Piccadilly flagship three centuries ago. The company, which is owned by the Canadian Weston family, said sales “significantly exceeded expectations”. It will open a new store in Dubai in 2014.

Suggested Topics
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Test Lead (C#, Java, HTML, SQL) Kingston Finance

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Access/Teradata Developer, Banking, Bristol £400pd

£375 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Access / Teradata Developer - Banking - Bristol -...

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home