Alice Pitman

Retail Heaven

Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge

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‘What London needs is a good shaking up,’ remarked the maverick American retailer Harry Gordon Selfridge upon arriving in England with his dream of opening the capital’s grandest department store. The reaction from the established retail industry was distinctly sniffy, yet by the time his iconic store opened, at the ‘wrong end’ of Oxford Street, in 1909, the press proclaimed him to be ‘as much one of the sights of London as Big Ben … he is a mobile landmark of the metropolis’. There were a million visitors in the first week alone. Forty years – and £65 million squandered pounds later – he died a forgotten man. 

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