Selfridges

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Selfridges is a chain of department stores in the United Kingdom. It was founded by American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge who opened a large store in London's Oxford Street on 15 March 1909.

H. Gordon Selfridge was born in 1858 in Ripon, Wisconsin, and in 1879 joined Field, Leiter and Company (later to become Marshall Field & Company), where he worked under the Chicago retailer of the same name. He worked his way up through the firm, married into the prominent Buckingham family, and amassed the fortune with which he built his new London store.

Selfridge's innovative marketing led to his success. He tried to make shopping a fun adventure instead of a chore. He put merchandise on display so customers could examine it, put the highly profitable perfume counter front-and-center on the ground floor, and established policies that made it safe and easy for customers to shop.

Selfridge is popularly held to have coined the phrase "the customer is always right", and he did use it regularly in his extensive advertising. The phrase, however, predated Selfridge by centuries, and he undoubtedly ran across the expression while purchasing Farsi rugs in Mumbai.

He attracted shoppers with educational and scientific exhibits. He was himself interested in education and science, and believed that the displays would introduce potential new customers to Selfridges, generating both immediate and long-term sales.

In 1909, after the first cross-Channel flight, Louis Blériot's monoplane was exhibited at Selfridges, where it was seen by 12,000 people. The first public demonstration of television was by John Logie Baird from the first floor of Selfridges from 1-27 April 1925.

A Milne-Shaw seismograph was set up on the Selfridge store’s third floor in 1932, attached to one of the building's main stanchions, unaffected by traffic or shoppers. It recorded the Belgian earthquake of 11 June 1938 which was also felt in London. At the outbreak of war, the seismograph was moved from its original site near the Post Office to another part of the store. In 1947, the seismograph was given to the British Museum.

The provincial stores were sold to the John Lewis Partnership in the 1940s. The remaining Oxford Street store was acquired in 1951 by the Liverpool-based Lewis's chain of department stores, which was in turn taken over in 1965 by the Sears group of Charles Clore.<ref>http://www.selfridges.com/index.cfm?page=1044 http://www.selfridges.com/index.cfm?page=1044.</ref> Between 1998 and 2003, the store supplemented its 460,000 square-foot main store with a 150,000 square-foot outlet at Trafford Centre in Manchester, a 120,000 square-foot outlet in the Marks & Spencer building in Exchange Square, Manchester, and a 160,000 square-foot store in the Birmingham Bull Ring shopping complex.

Selfridge stores are known for architectural excellence. Their main store was designed by Daniel Burnham, who also crafted Marshall Field's main store in his home town of Chicago. The London store was built in phases, the first phase consisting only of the nine-and-a-half bays closest to the Duke Street corner.<ref>English Heritage: Selfridge's Department Store, Oxford Street, London.</ref> A scheme to erect a massive tower above the store was never carried out.<ref>http://www.ngca.co.uk/imagelib/selfridges%2072.jpg.</ref> Also involved in the design of the store were the American architect Francis Swales, who worked on decorative details, and the British architect Frank Atkinson.<ref>Morrison, Kathryn A. English Shops & Shopping: An Architectural History. Yale 2003. ISBN 0-300-10219-4</ref> The 160,000 square foot Birmingham store, designed by architects Future Systems, is covered in 15,000 spun aluminium discs.

In 2003, the chain was acquired by Canada's Galen Weston for £598 million. Weston, a retailing expert who is the owner of Canada's major supermarket chains Loblaws and No Frills among others, has chosen to invest in renovation of the Oxford Street store, rather than to immediately carry out planned expansion to Leeds, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Bristol, and Glasgow.<ref>BBC News</ref>

[edit] Further reading

  • Honeycombe, Gordon. Selfridges, Seventy-Five Years: The Story of the Store 1909-84. London, 1984

[edit] References

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[edit] External links

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