H Gordon Selfridge

H Gordon Selfridge

HARRY GORDON SELFRIDGE d1947. American born retail magnate who founded the world famous Selfridges department store in 1909. In 1906 he had travelled to London with his wife. He was unimpressed with the quality of existing British stores and decided to invest some £400,000 in building his own department store in what was then the unfashionable western end of Oxford Street. The new store (Selfridges) opened to the public on March 15th 1909 and immediately set completely new standards for retailing business. At this time women were beginning to enjoy the fruits of emancipation, by wandering unescorted around the city of London. A canny marketer, Selfridge promoted the radical notion of shopping for pleasure rather than necessity and his shop was extensively promoted through paid advertising. The shop floors were structured so that goods could be made more accessible to customers. There were elegant restaurants with modest prices, a library, reading and writing rooms, special reception rooms for French / German / American and "Colonial" customers / a First Aid Room and a Silence Room (with soft lights, deep chairs and double-glazing) all intended to keep customers in the store as long as possible. Staff members were taught to be on hand to assist customers, but not too aggressively and to sell the merchandise. Selfridge also managed to obtain from the GPO the number "1" as his own phone number ; so anybody had to just Dial 1 to be connected to Selfridge's operators. He also famously invented the phrase ; ".....shopping days to Christmas". At the height of his fortune (during the 1920s) he maintained a busy social life and was well-known as a lavish entertainer at his homes in Berkeley Square London and Highcliff Castle in Hampshire. During the years of the Great Depression, he watched his fortune rapidly decline and finally disappear—a situation not helped by his continuing free-spending ways. In 1941, he left Selfridges, moved from his lavish home and travelled around London by bus. In 1947, he died (aged 83) in straitened circumstances at Putney London.

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H Gordon Selfridge

Reference Number. 14042


A rare original May 1937 George VI "Selfridges Decorations for The Coronation" booklet, clearly signed on the front in pencil by H Gordon Selfridge 

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