As Selfridges prepares for a £300m investment, we highlight below seven ways the famous department store has transformed the face of retail.
The picture gallery above also shows how the department store has made a splash over the years.
1. Retail theatre
Harry Selfridge was the first to establish the ‘theatre of retail’. It started when in 1909, aviation pioneer Louis Blériot became the first pilot to fly across the English Channel and Harry Selfridge had the innovative idea of putting his plane on display in store, with the pilot himself, drawing crowds of over 150,000. From then on, if a topic or trend was news-worthy or interesting Selfridges led the way, showcasing it first.
2. The “customer is always right”
It was Harry Selfridge who coined the famous phrase “the customer is always right”, becoming the first retailer to put the customer at the heart of the retail experience. And he created a second turn of phrase when he said, “business as usual,” in response to the outbreak of war in 1914. Women subsequently stepped up to fill jobs in Selfridges (previously held by men) including driving delivery vans and operating lifts.
3. Mixing the exclusive with the everyday
In 1911, Selfridges opened a ‘Bargain Basement’ in the basementlower ground area of the store, aimed at house-wives looking to save money. Despite it being at the value end, the merchandise was displayed just as beautifully as product was on the upper floors, showing the retailer’s knack of mixing the exclusive with the everyday. “I am prepared to sell anything, from an aeroplane to a cigar,” Harry Selfridge said at the time.
4. Showcasing product on display
Selfridges was the first retailer to put its product on display, showcasing it in glass cabinets for everyone to see, thereby creating that initial consumer desire for the products. It also changed the shape of retail by opening a beauty department inside the ground floor area, to help entice female customers in store.
5. Celebrity endorsements
Harry Selfridge was the first to use celebrities to help endorse products in store, along with celebrity appearances to draw the crowds. This continued throughout the decades, with the Star Wars villan Darth Vadar making an appearance outside the department store during the 1980s.
6. Product innovations
To celebrate the store’s 16th birthday in 1925, John Logie Baird made history by showing his televisor in store. Selfridges would later lead the way in selling an innovative new product, the television.
7. TV advertising
In the 1980’s, Selfridges paved the way for TV advertising by becoming the first British department store to advertise on TV.