Page 194 - Simply Abu Dhabi Magazine VI

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S I M P LY A B U DH A B I
This talent for publicity was combined with continuing retail
innovations: in 1910 Selfridges opened a beauty department inside the
ground floor entrance area, the appealing smell of perfume disguising
the manure of the horse-drawn buses and delivery vans outside. A
‘bargain basement’ and the world’s biggest bookshop followed in 1911,
a pet department in 1912. The store suffered in the depression of the
thirties and Selfridge – now deemed too flamboyant – left the store in
1941 before the lean years of the war. He died in 1947, before he could
see its fortunes revived, as it helped to supply the nation with television
sets for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
An international star
So the story of Selfridges has always been tied to British history: but
London is an international city, and likewise, this unique store has
always attracted an international crowd of discerning customers. In
recent years, hundreds of thousands of visitors from Middle Eastern
countries like Abu Dhabi have been enticed to London to enjoyed
browsing and sampling the store’s extravagant wares, attracted by the
good value that a weaker pound offered. Fragrances by designers like
Trish McEvoy, Tom Ford and Chanel are particularly popular as
Ramadan gifts, and in some years Selfridges staff have reported sales
increases of over fifty per cent. Some summers, shop assistants have
even found that the beauty hall has been as busy as it is at Christmas,
and extra emergency stock and gift wrap has had to be called in.
Selfridges has more than 50 staff who speak Arabic and its Clarins
counter has an area whereMuslimwomen who do not want to remove
their hijab in public can try out products. But beauty aside, the opulent
array of choice at Selfridge’s departments is staggering: whether in food,
accessories, fashion, or elsewhere, the store is defined by its abundant
luxury. Perhaps most amazing of all is the ‘Wonder Room’, which
covers 19,000 sq ft in a neoclassical hall and cost over £10 million to
create in 2007. The Wonder Room offers customers a unique mix of
products in an imaginative setting: an “arcade” of boutiques displays
jewellery from brands like Chopard, Hermes, Tiffany & Co., and
Chanel; there’s a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ displaying the latest
technological must-haves, and customers can relax and enjoy the ‘wine
jukebox’ in the ‘Wonder Bar’.