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June 29, 2016

Selfridges – A British Institution Worthy of a Visit

Posted by:
Elevay Global

“Remember always that the recollection of quality remains long after the price is forgotten. Then your business will prosper by a natural process,” Harry Gordon Selfridge.

With the rise in popularity of the television show named after the founder of famed British department store Selfridges, one can’t help but take notice of the many innovations the London-based department store made since its founding in 1909.

Even today Selfridges is known for its artistic window displays, but this was a new innovation when the store first opened. In the Victorian era, shopkeepers would stand in doorways and attempt to lure customers in. Selfridge recognized that grand window displays could draw in curious customers on their own. In fact, Selfridge was something of a marketing pioneer, and in 1909 he displayed the first airplane to ever fly over the English Channel right inside the store. The plane was displayed for four days and its presence attracted over 150,000 people who visited the store.

Not only did Selfridges revolutionize the way people were drawn in, it also revolutionized the way people shopped. Previously, stores employed men to watch customers and ensure they were going to make a purchase. If someone seemed to be ‘just looking’ they would be approached and asked to leave. Selfridge saw the value in encouraging browsing, and was the first to display goods on the floor of the store—rather than behind a counter as people were then accustomed to.

Of course one cannot neglect to mention the façade of the store. The only store to be named Best Department Store in the World three times, was meant to be grand. Selfridge himself wanted it to resemble a royal palace. Today, it is still the largest shop on Oxford street with its 650,000 feet of retail space. In fact, because the building reaches 60 meters below ground level, the US Army used the basement during the Second World War to transmit messages from the US Embassy.

One more feature you might be familiar with—Selfridges was the first department store to move makeup and perfume to the front. Previously, those items were kept at the back of the store and it was not considered proper for a lady to wear blush. Now, almost every modern department store features makeup and perfume as you walk through the door.

But perhaps one of the most recognizable lines that is attributed to Selfridge is the saying, “The customer is always right.”

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