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Selfridges sells another chapter in luxury brand’s roller coaster history

The Selfridges deal is the latest in a roller coaster story for the brand founded by a retail legend, writes our retail correspondent Sarah Butler:

After more than 20 years climbing the ranks of Marshall Field’s store in Chicago in 1906, American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge arrived in the UK with one intention: to found a department store.

According to some, he was tempted in the UK by Liverpudlian Samuel J Waring Jr, who had built a chain of furniture stores in London and wanted someone to run a store next to his new Waring and Gillow store on Oxford Street. .

It was originally to be called Selfridge-Waring store, but Selfridge took control when his partner ran into financial difficulties and the new store opened in March 1909 under his name alone.

From the start, Selfridge embraced retail theater and determined that his store would be “a civic center, where friends can meet and where shopping is just a secondary consideration.” On opening day, which drew huge crowds, the store dazzled shoppers with live music, abundant flower arrangements, and abundant lighting in its airy halls.

Selfridges from Selfridges on Oxford Street in London, 1931.

Selfridges from Selfridges on Oxford Street in London, 1931. Photograph: Selfridges / PA

The store sold a wide range of products but, out of respect for its first business partner, neither food nor furniture. It housed a library, a ladies’ rest room, a picture gallery and a restaurant connected to a roof garden.

Selfridges set a new benchmark for UK department stores, abandoning the tradition of housing staff above the store and opting for large, modern display cases more akin to advertising than the practice of stacking as much merchandise as possible.

When the store received one of the blue plaques from English Heritage in 2003, the charity said: “It is in large part because of Selfridge that Oxford Street remains the commercial heart of the West End.

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