The Origins of Selfridge & Co.

Yesterday, I went on day trip to London to do some shopping, and spend some time, at Selfridge & Co., with my family.

It was quite the treat. So beautiful inside and out, and they were already decorated for Christmas (and we haven’t even had Bonfire Night yet)!

Christmas Decor Inside
Christmas Decor Inside
Statue Outside the Entrance
Statue Outside the Entrance

For me, it was great to spend some time in the place that Harry Gordon started 105 years ago, and to be among that history, with all those lovely clothes, and amazing window displays.

It’s wonderful that it is still going strong.

I learnt about Selfridges (as we tend to call it) bout eight years ago or so, during the course of my undergraduate degree,  I had really bad insomnia, and I often had sleepless nights. One really memorable time, I decided to get out of bed at 2am, instead of lying there sleepless. The only thing I could think of doing was watching TV. So, I switched on the box, and I landed on the Yesterday* channel. There was a documentary about Mr Harry Gordon Selfridge, and the famous store in London. Since I knew nothing about him, I decided to watch it.

There, I learnt how Mr Selfridge changed the face of shopping.

At the turn of last century, the shopping culture was very different to now. When one went out shopping then, there was no such thing as browsing. An item had to be purchased, and the customer was not even allowed to touch the goods. For women, there was an extra problem: they couldn’t shop alone, and they had to have a chaperone. Imagine the pressure; you had the buy something, and have someone looking over your shoulder all the time! 😯 To top that off, there weren’t even any toilets for women in the streets of London. They were all, and only, for men.

Soon enough, a Mr Mile-A-Minute-Harry Selfridge came along, and changed all that.

He built a massive store at the unpopular end of Oxford Street. It was to be where a women could spend all day, for she could browse, eat in the restaurants, touch the goods, and go to the bathroom. Basically, a safe haven was created for the sex that London forgot. He even coined the phrase: “The customer is always right!”¹

It really annoys me that the recent popular drama, Mr Selfridge (starring Jeremy Piven as the main character),² does not highlight this fact. It’s much more about the store, how popular it got, and how it helped shop girls (of course, another valid point, which another documentary did not highlight!). Mind you, there was one line in Series Two, where Harry Selfridge revealed that what drove him to work with such passion was his wife, Rose, and that he did it all for her. . If that was the case, then he must have imagined a whole space in which she would have been able to spend all day in.

To this day, I’m glad of the space, and I appreciate how Mr Selfridge contributed to society with his store.

While I didn’t buy anything, as I couldn’t afford any of it, I did enjoy a wonderful crépe that made me feel like I was back in Paris. 🙂

Ah, such bliss…

A mozzarella, tomato, and pestro crépe, with Darjeeling tea. Result: very happy tummy!
A mozzarella, tomato, and pestro crépe, with Darjeeling tea. Result: very happy tummy!
* Despite my best intentions to cite, I cannot find any link to this. 😦
¹ http://www.selfridges.com/en/StaticPage/Our+Heritage#MrSelfridge
² http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2310212/
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