Name: Peter Harrington
Industry/sector: Retail and related services
Date founded: 1969
The boss: Pom Harrington
Latest turnover: £13.7m
Three-year compound growth rate (%): 38.83
Latest EBITDA: £3.1m
Peter Harrington specialises in selling and buying original first editions, signed, rare and antiquarian books, as well as bindings and library sets. In the company’s clutches, you’ll find, for example, James Joyce’s Ulysses, of which there are only 100 copies on Dutch paper; Shakespeare’s first folio dating back to 1623; Virginia Woolf’s diaries spanning eight years, including that of her final year; and the publisher’s copy of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn – “the first copy ever bound”.
Pom Harrington formally joined in 1994, at the age of 19, where he worked as an apprentice for the company – which just happened to be owned by his father. Harrington took over the shop in 2003, and has maintained its exclusive bibliophilic focus on first editions and autographs, but has expanded the six-floor building and gallery’s remit to include art.
“At the moment the real top stuff seems to be flying,” Harrington said. “I think we’re seeing a huge increase in pricing.”
Although the majority of the business’s success came when it’s two branches, Peter Harrington Antiquarian Bookseller and Old Church Galleries – which specialises in maps – amalgamated into one business and one premises, this growth was later spurred on by the company opening a second premises in the heart of London’s West End.
Harrington was confident that Dover Street would be a perfect fit for the company, noting the literary heritage of the area. “Mayfair has a significant connection to the literary world going back to the 1800s – Brown’s Hotel was founded by Lord Byron’s valet, while Edward Moxon published works by Mary Shelley and William Wordsworth whilst living on this very street,” he said.
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