Got a hankering for hampering? Fortnum & Mason to open first store outside of UK in Hong Kong

The flagship Fortnum & Mason store in London. Photo via Wei-Te Wong.

Fortnum & Mason, the venerable London grocer and supplier to the royal family, has announced plans to open a new store on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, its first brick-and-mortar outlet outside of the UK in its more than 300-year history.

The 7,000-square foot outlet — a fraction of the size of the 65,000-square-foot London flagship — will be located inside the K11 Musea development in Tsim Sha Tsui, which is slated to open in September, the Financial Times reports.

Chief executive Ewan Venters told the FT he was “extremely confident” in the store’s future success, noting its current partnership with local retailer Lane Crawford, which offers some Fortnum & Mason products at its stores here.

“[Hong Kong] offers a stable commercial trading environment for us to make our first big move into China,” Venters said. “It’s easy to do business there, easy to understand, and it promotes us strongly to mainland China.”

Venters noted that there were currently no plans to expand into the mainland, but did not exclude the possibility.

Founded in 1707, Fortnum’s history — at least in its own telling — closely charts the history of Britain itself, with the company supplying food to troops in the Napoleonic and Crimean wars in the early-to-mid-19th century, introducing Heinz baked beans to England in 1886, and provisioning the first British expedition to Everest with ample quail and champagne in 1922.

However, its proudest achievement, by far, was among its first: (allegedly) inventing the Scotch egg in 1738 as a handy snack for travelers.

A cartoon from 1865 depicts a Fortnum & Mason hamper lashed under a carriage. Image via Cardiff University.
A cartoon from 1865 depicts a Fortnum & Mason hamper lashed under a carriage. Image via Cardiff University.

The grocer is best known for its wicker hampers, packed with pre-assembled combinations of various food and drink. The hampers have actually gotten multiple shout-outs from no less an august English personage than Charles Dickens, who invited a friend to a picnic in 1851 thusly:

“I have promised Charley that I will appear at 11 that morning at Slough, armed with a hamper from Fortnum and Mason’s, and take him and three other young Etonian Shavers up the river. He ‘knows a bank’ where we can dine; and if you can come, you and I will console ourselves for our antiquity, after dinner, with a trifle of tobacco and champagne in the starn of the wessel.”

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