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Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 08:26 GMT
By Appointment: The ultimate celeb endorsement

The Knightsbridge store, complete with coat of arms
No one expects Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed to be on the Royal Family's Christmas card list this year.

He's probably done too much damage, what with making all sorts of allegations against the Duke of Edinburgh.

But now the Harrods owner has really excised himself from the Family's favourites.

He said that he doesn't care even if he loses the royal warrant.

Mohamed al-Fayed: I don't need royal warrants
The warrant is the royal stamp of approval for suppliers to the royal household.

Like a Rolls-Royce, it means you have arrived in the world of victualling.

And for a "nation of shopkeepers" - as Napoleon called the English - that of course is one of the highest honours.

But Mr Al-Fayed apparently doesn't care if the "top people's store" loses some of its cachet.

I have the support of the masses

Mohammed al-Fayed
"For me it makes no difference," he said, after being asked whether he was worried about rumours that Harrods might lose the royal warrant because of his remarks in court.

"What the hell the value of royal warrants?" he added.

"I'm not in need for the royal warrants, right.

"If they take it, it makes no problem for me, because I don't need their support, because I have the support of the masses."

Harrods has four royal warrants including one as gentleman's outfitters to the Duke of Edinburgh.

Warrants date back to the Middle Ages, one of the earliest being given to Thomas Hewytt to supply Henry VIII with "swannes and cranes and all kinds of wildfowl".

Royal warrants can be stamped on products
There are about 1,100 royal warrants and most come up for review every four years.

Earlier this year, the Queen withdrew her warrant from cigarette company Gallaher, though the Palace insisted this was more to do with a falling demand among guests at royal functions than concern over tobacco-related illnesses.

To get one you must have supplied the royal household with your goods or services for at least five years.

Then you can apply to the Royal Warrant Holders' Association, the "policemen" of the warrants.

If you get past them, Lord Camoys, the Lord Chamberlain will take your application to whichever member of the Royal Family you supply.

Only four members of the Royal Family grant the licences: the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother and the Prince of Wales.

However, the warrant does not necessarily mean that particular royal uses the product. For instance, can one imagine the Queen pushing a Hoover round the Palace drawing room, or scrubbing up the Balmoral bowl with Jeyes cleaning fluid following a Royal flush?

The honour is not only conferred on large companies - some local stores near Balmoral are By Appointment to Her Majesty, as are RG Hardie bagpipe makers and Andrew Donaldson fishmongers of King's Lynn.

How to get, and keep, a royal warrant
Supply goods or services to the royals for at least five years
Stay solvent
Do not use the warrant directly in advertising
Do not annoy the Royal Family

Tesco has no royal warrants, but it is basking in the glory earlier this month of being chosen to supply the Christmas puddings to the Royal staff.

The Queen's endorsement for Tesco is as near to a royal warrant as you can get. But the firm was strangely reluctant to field questions about the commercial benefits of a royal warrant.

'Real coup'

A spokesperson said they would be selling one million kilos of Christmas puddings this year - but how many of those would be down to the Queen's endorsement, could not be revealed.

Fortnum and Mason and Harvey Nicholls were both diplomatically silent about the commercial benefits of the royal stamp of approval.

Harrods: Reportedly threatened with losing warrant
But Richard Hymen, chairman of market research firm Verdict said endorsements were particularly important in these days of "qualitative consumerism".

What this means that we no longer shop as much for things we need, but more for the things we want.

He said: "If you have the choice of four different types of Christmas pudding, the manufacturer has to weave a story to explain why it is better."

And what better way than to let the press weave a story of the Queen choosing your pud for her staff?

"It was a real coup," said Mr Hyman.

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