The American dream of Harry Gordon Selfridge is still alive today, in the heart of London, and it's full of personality of the man who built it! #selfridges #mrselfridge #secretsofselfridges #fashion #London
Aladdin's Cave of Wonders
Harry Gordon Selfridge has been called a "social Santa" many times since he introduced us to the American way of shopping by displaying all the goods in plain view, so customers can touch them and try them on. Experiencing and participating in the shopping experience was unheard of at the time. He was also the man, who decided to set the perfumery and beauty department right on the ground floor, which gave out a wonderful scent as soon as you walked in - it's considered one of the most lucrative departments at the moment. It's no surprise that 1 in 4 Londoners came into Selfridges on the opening day in 1908 (that's 1.4million out of 4million Londoners). One true insight, Selfridges was the first store to provide women's toilets. Somewhat hard to imagine isn't it?
"Excite the mind and the hand will reach for the wallet." Harry G. Selfridge, 1909
Imaginative, modern and fashionable
Shortly after the opening hype, business died off and Mr. Selfridge had to come up with new ideas of how to draw the crowds of customers back in. In 1909, he made publicity stunts acceptable. When a frenchman did a first flight over the English Channel, he borrowed his plane and placed it right in the middle of the shop floor. Needless to say, the business took off.
Selfridges became the first store in Britain where every class shopped together.
Mr. Selfridge also started the trend of the first bi-annual sale and set up a bargain basement, where customers could browse all of the out-of-season products for a much cheaper price. He also treated his staff very well and created a new culture of customer service - his motto being:
Don't push the sale, but treat the customer well, then they'll buy.
In 1920, after extending the original Selfridges building by two blocks, he introduced ready to wear (off the racks) dresses, which drew in a more younger and fashionable crowd. Selfridges now had 21 shop windows, all of which became its stylistic displays and each and every one of them had a story to tell.
"The boss says "Go", the leaders says "Let's go!" Harry G. Selfridge
Lots of books and TV shows covered the well known Mr. Selfridge and showed us the behind the scenes of how he built his empire in the middle of then not so fashionable Oxford Street. It's a fascinating tale of the American dream, especially as Harry Gordon Selfridge went against the tide to prove to us all that his vision was right.
If you're interested in learning more, I'd advice the Netflix doco "Secrets of Selfridges" for a few fun facts or the "Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge" book, which gives a lot of insight into the business side of things. Then there's also the famous ITV Series "Mr. Selfridge" from 2013, which is fun to watch.