‘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.
No one understood the psyche of women customers more than Harry Selfridge – the first retailer to grasp the concept of shopping as a sensual female entertainment. Spearheading the revolution that changed ordinary women’s perception of buying, he believed that business existed not just to make money but to involve