Magazine article Marketing

Selfridges & Co

Magazine article Marketing

Selfridges & Co

Article excerpt

The world-famous department store has stayed true to its creative retail philosophy for 102 years.

Selling a staggering range of goods from furniture to food, Selfridges attracts visitors to its 540,000ft2 Oxford Street store with not only its products, but also creative exhibitions and events.

Founder Harry Gordon Selfridge began his career working in Chicago's leading department store, Field and Leiter, which later became Marshall Field. He introduced ideas such as lighting window displays at night, and helped it become the biggest store in the world at the time.

He left in 1903 and bought a rival retailer. A few months later, he abruptly decided to sell up. He had bigger ambitions: 'London is the greatest and richest city in the world and contains 6m discerning inhabitants,' he said.

He opened a store on Oxford Street, a far from prestigious location at the time, in 1909, with 130 departments, restaurants, writing rooms and six acres of selling space. Selfridges & Co was a success from the beginning.

The store attracted thousands of visitors, putting on events such as the first public demonstration of television by John Logie Baird in 1925.

Selfridge created a benchmark for promoting retail stores with brand identities. By turning shopping into a leisure activity, and targeting the recently emancipated female population, he changed the concept of retail space forever.

However, the department store has also faced hard times, surviving the blitz of World War II, near bankruptcy and economic downturns throughout its 102-year history. Under various owners, it has continued to stay true to Selfridge's vision. A department named 'Miss Selfridge' was opened in the 60s and spun off into a nationwide chain, and in the 80s, Selfridges became the first British department store to advertise on TV.

Under the leadership of Vittorio Radice in the 90s, the London store underwent a pounds 94m redevelopment. Manchester and Birmingham branches were opened at the turn of the century.

Radice was also responsible for helping revitalise the store's image, transforming it into the 'house of brands' described by Vogue as a 'modern temple for the worship of shopping', as well as making the famous Selfridges yellow shopping bag something of a fashion accessory.

Under the ownership of the Weston family since 2003, events such as the ongoing 'Museum of Everything' exhibition and departments such as the recently unveiled Shoe Galleries have continued to attract shoppers.

BRAND LESSON BY JAMES JOICE, CLIENT DIRECTOR, JKR

When does packaging become advertising? …

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