|Founder(s)||Harry Gordon Selfridge|
|Headquarters||Oxford Street, London, United Kingdom|
|Number of locations||Oxford Street, London
Trafford Centre, Manchester
Exchange Square, Manchester
Bull Ring, Birmingham
|Key people||Harry Gordon Selfridge|
Selfridges, also known as Selfridges & Co., is a chain of high end department stores in the United Kingdom. It was founded by Harry Gordon Selfridge. The flagship store in London's Oxford Street is the second largest shop in the UK (after Harrods) and opened 15 March 1909.1
More recently, three other stores have been opened; in the Trafford Centre (1998) and Exchange Square (2002) in Manchester and in the Bullring, Birmingham (2003). Until 1990, the store belonged to Liverpool's now-defunct Lewis's retail group. Today it belongs to the Weston family. The shop's history was dramatised in 2012–13, in the British television series Mr Selfridge.2
H. Gordon Selfridge was born in 1856 in Ripon, Wisconsin, and in 1879 joined Field, Leiter and Company (later to become Marshall Field & Company), where he worked for the famous Chicago retailer. He worked his way up through the firm, married Rose Buckingham of the prominent Chicago 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-centre on the ground floor, and established policies that made it safe and easy for customers to shop – techniques that have been adopted by modern department stores the world over.
Selfridge attracted shoppers with educational and scientific exhibits and 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 to 27 April 1925.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the roof of the store hosted terraced gardens, cafes, a mini golf course and an all-girl gun club. The roof, with its spectacular views across London, was a popular place for strolling after a shopping trip and was often used for fashion shows. During the Second World War the store was bombed in 1940, 1941 and 1944 causing catastrophic damage. After the devastating bombing of the department store in 1940 owner H. Gordon Selfridge vowed never to open the rooftop gardens again.4
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.
Selfridges had expanded over the years to include fifteen provincial stores, but these were sold to the John Lewis Partnership in the 1940s.5 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 owned by Charles Clore.6 Under the Sears group, branches in Ilford and Oxford opened, the latter remaining Selfridges until 1986, when Sears rebranded it as a Lewis's store. In 1990, Sears Holdings split Selfridges from Lewis's and placed Lewis's in administration a year later. In March 1998, Selfridges acquired its current logo in tandem with the opening of the Manchester Trafford Centre store and Selfridges demerger from Sears.
In September 1998, Selfridges expanded and opened a department store in the newly-opened Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester. Following its success, a second 125,000-square-foot (11,600 m2) store was opened in Exchange Square in Manchester city centre. A 260,000-square-foot (24,000 m2)7 store opened in 2003 in Birmingham's Bull Ring.
In 2003, the chain was acquired by Canada's Galen Weston for £598 million. Weston, a retailing expert who is the owner of department store chains such as Holt Renfrew and Brown Thomas as well as major supermarket chains in Canada, has chosen to invest in renovation of the Oxford Street store – rather than to create new stores in British cities other than Manchester and Birmingham.8 The Chief Executive is Irish retailer, Paul Kelly, who has worked for the Weston organisation since the mid-1980s.citation needed
Selfridge stores are known for architectural innovation and excellence and are tourist destinations in their own right. The original London 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 consisted of only the nine-and-a-half bays closest to the Duke Street corner,1 and is an example of one of the earliest uses of steel cage frame construction for this type of building in London. This circumstance, according to the report of a contemporary London correspondent from the Chicago Tribune, was largely responsible for making possible the eventual wide-spread use of Chicago’s steel frame cage construction system in the United Kingdom. “Under the pressure of [Mr. Selfridge] and the interests allied with him, the councilors admitted the soundness of American building methods and framed a bill which will be pressed at once in parliament [sic] to permit these methods to be used here.”.9 A scheme to erect a massive tower above the store was never carried out.
Also involved in the design of the store were American architect Francis Swales, who worked on decorative details, and British architects R. Frank Atkinson and Thomas Smith Tait.1011 The distinctive polychrome sculpture above the Oxford Street entrance is the work of British sculptor Gilbert Bayes.
Selfridges in London was named world's best department store in 2010 by the Daily Telegraph.12
The Trafford store is noted for its use of stone and marble and for the exterior which strikingly resembles the London store. Each of the five floors of the Exchange Square store in central Manchester was designed by a different architect and has its own look and feel. In December 2009, store officials announced it will undergo a £40 million renovation to give the store a more iconic look that has been associated with Selfridges. It has been announced the store will feature art installations using LED lighting that will be projected to the outside of the building at night.citation needed The Birmingham store, designed by architects Future Systems, is covered in 15,000 spun aluminium discs on a background of Yves Klein Blue.13 Since it opened in 2003, the Birmingham store has been named every year by industry magazine Retail Week as one of the 100 stores to visit in the world.14
Selfridges windows have become synonymous also with the brand, and to a certain degree have become as famous as the company and Oxford Street location itself. Selfridges has a history of bold art initiatives when it comes to the window designs. When the building was undergoing restoration, the scaffolding was shrouded with a giant photograph of stars such as Sir Elton John by Sam Taylor-Wood. The windows consistently attract tourists, designers and fashionistas alike to marvel at the current designs and styling and fashion trends.
Since 2002, the windows have been photographed by London photographer Andrew Meredith and published in magazines such as Vogue, Dwell, Icon, Frame Magazine, Creative Review, Hungarian Stylus Magazine, Design Week, Harper's Bazaar, New York Times, WGSN and much more including world wide press, journals, blogs and published books all over the world.15
Selfridges has been criticised for continuing to sell foie gras, a food product made from the liver of specially fattened ducks and geese.161718 Animal rights and welfare groups, such as PETA, contend that the method of producing foie gras involves the inhumane treatment of animals. As of November 2009, with help from Sir Roger Moore, Selfridges agreed to remove foie gras from its shelves permanently.19 The store showed that it was implementing the policy strictly, when it ejected celebrity butcher Jack O'Shea's at Christmas 2011 and terminated his contract in the food hall, after a reporter for the Evening Standard recorded workers at his counter store selling foie gras to customers who knew the codeword "French fillet".20
Selfridges caused outrage when a July 2010 window display at its Manchester store portrayed an Alexander McQueen garment hanging from a gallows-like structure, just months after the designer committed suicide by hanging.21 After a public outcry, the store issued the following apology on 14 July 2010:
Presenting a fashion item from the new Alexander McQueen collection hanging was never intended to be linked to the designer’s untimely death or how he died. Nearly all the new season items from our new window scheme, The Desirables, showcased in both our London and Manchester stores, are hung artistically on their own to present them as even more extraordinary. However, we do acknowledge that, in retrospect, presenting the dress in our Manchester Exchange Square store in this way was a mistake, and would like to apologise if this particular window has upset anyone. The dress has been removed and replaced by another designer’s garment.22
ITV and Masterpiece produced a series entitled Mr Selfridge that aired on ITV beginning January 2013 (in ten parts) and on PBS beginning 31 March 2013 (in eight parts).23 Due to overwhelming response, ITV announced it would begin to produce ten additional episodes in April 2013 and air them in the 2014 season.24
- "Our Heritage". Selfridges. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "From Selfridges to John Lewis, we've a treat in store". telegraph.co.uk. The Daily Telegraph. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "The customer is always right". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Selfridges unveils rowing boats and a cocktail bar as it opens its roof for the first time since WWII". Daily Mail. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "The history of John Lewis Watford". johnlewis.com. John Lewis Partnership. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Richard Davenport-Hines (2004). "Clore, Sir Charles (1904–1979)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.subscription required
- "Land Securities – Retail – Birmingham, Bull Ring". PropertyMall.com. 18 February 2000. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Selfridges UK expansion capped". BBC News. 28 October 2003. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
- By Cable from London, February 8 (February 9 1909). "H.G. SELFRIDGE WINS FIGHT WITH LONDON CITY COUNCIL – Last Obstacle Overcome by Chicagoan and Work on Oxford Street Is Being Pushed Rapidly". Chicago Daily Tribune: A2.
- Kathryn A. Morrison (2003). English Shops & Shopping: An Architectural History. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10219-4.
- "Selfridges". Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
- Nick Collins (14 June 2010). "Selfridges named world's best department store". The Daily Telegraph (telegraph.co.uk). Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- Jonathan Glancey (1 September 2003). "Top of the blobs". The Guardian (guardian.co.uk). Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Birmingham Selfridges named must see sight". The Daily Telegraph (telegraph.co.uk). 26 September 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- Mark Sinclair (2 February 2012). "Wordplay in Selfridges' windows". Creative Review. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Sir Roger Moore appears in campaign to stop shoppers buying foie gras". The Daily Telegraph (telegraph.co.uk). 6 November 2009. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Foie gras protesters go topless". BBC News (bbc.co.uk). 12 February 2009. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- Martin Hickman (2 April 2008). "Vegetarian aristocrats and their campaign against the cruelty of Selfridges' foie gras". The Independent (independent.co.uk). Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Selfridges Drops Foie Gras From Shelves–Geese Dance Everywhere". Vegetarian Star. 16 November 2009. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- Suzannah Hills (20 February 2012). "Celebrity butcher sacked after selling banned foie gras under the counter to customers who knew secret codeword". Daily Mail (dailymail.co.uk). Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- Ruthie Friedlander (9 July 2010). "Selfridges Hangs Alexander McQueen… Again". styleite.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Coty Denies Lady Gaga Scent Deal... Selfridges Says Sorry...". Women's Wear Daily (wwd.com). 15 July 2010. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- Hale, Mike (28 March 2013). "Fogging Up the Windows of a Big Store". The New York Times (NYTimes.com). Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- Szalai, George (8 February 2013). "U.K.'s ITV Orders Second Season of 'Mr Selfridge' With Jeremy Piven". The Hollywood Reporter (hollywoodreporter.com). Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- Honeycombe, Gordon. Selfridges, Seventy-Five Years: The Story of the Store 1909–84. London, 1984. ISBN 0902935275.
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