The sorry tale of Harrods Buenos Aires

The new Qatari owners of Harrods are talking about opening branches of the London department store overseas, possibly in China. Here’s what became of the retailer's last attempt at an international land grab.

In 1914 Harrods opened its first and so far only foreign offshoot, on Avenida Florida in downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina. It divorced from the UK division in the late 1940s but continued to trade under the name Harrods Buenos Aires.

The store plays a minor role in, among other things, Travels With My Aunt, the 1969 novel by Graham Greene. The aunt of the title, Aunt Augusta, describes Argentina as a "rather bizarre country, not the less bizarre for having a shop called Harrods round the corner from the hotel, though it is less well stocked, I fear, than in the Brompton Road".

That was never more true than now. These days the store is a sorry shell of a building, smudged black on the outside and with illegible grafitti messages scrawled into the dust on the windows. It closed its doors to the public in 1998, although some locals say the site is due to be redeveloped.