Page 193 - Simply Abu Dhabi Magazine VI

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Selfridges department store,
the largest onLondon’s
Oxford Street, combines
innovationwith a
commitment to quality,
continuing the spirit that was
initiated by its legendary
hen the American entrepreneur Henry Gordon
Selfridge - Harry to his friends - founded the
Selfridges department store in 1909, he may have
not known how exactly how his project would pan out. But
he would surely be delighted with the result today. Any visitor
to London’s historic Oxford Street will find that even in this
epicentre of global retail, his creation is now the largest
department store - and its renown doesn’t stop there. Selfridges
is one of the biggest department stores in Europe, and among
the most famous in the world.
Instead of asking what you can buy at Selfridges, it might be
better to ask what you can’t. And the answer is: very little.
Designer clothes, world class food and sumptuous home
furnishings are just a fraction of what’s available. But although
an utterly comprehensive array of goods may be impressive,
Harry Selfridge knew that it’s quality and innovation that really
A tireless innovator
Born in 1856, Selfridge was the son of a Wisconsin shopkeeper.
At the age of 23 he started work at a Chicago department store
owned byMarshall Field, where he initiated many innovations,
including lighting the store windows at night, opening
Chicago’s first store restaurant (where women could lunch un-
chaperoned), fitting luxurious ladies’ cloakrooms, and
introducing displays at customer-friendly waist level. Gaining
the nickname ‘Mile-a-Minute’ Harry, Selfridge displayed a
phenomenal enthusiasm and drive as he helped take the store
to the very top. But even when Marshall Field became the
largest store in the world, he was not satisfied: he wanted to
start his own store, and came to London in 1909 – aged 49 – to
set one up.
Selfridge’s words "I am prepared to sell anything from an
aeroplane to a cigar" sumup his restless spirit, which constantly
sought out new ideas and imaginative ways in which to provide
the customer with the best possible shopping experience. He
became known as the ‘showman of shopping’, putting on
dramatic events to wow visitors: the plane in which Louis
Blériot became the first aviator to fly over water was displayed
in the shop for several days, attracting crowds of over 150,000;
and Scottish inventor John Logie Baird demonstrated his
televisor as part of the store's 16th birthday celebration in 1925.