Selfridges: The crown jewel of the high street

Undoubtedly, Selfridges is the crown jewel of Oxford Street. It’s as high on tourist attractions lists as it is in the sky and it is steeped in stories that have defined British culture.

The philosophy of the store can be traced back to its iconoclastic founder, Harry Gordon Selfridge. In fact, it can be succinctly summed up in one of his quotes:

A store should be a social centre, not merely a place for shopping.’ 

He wanted to change people’s approach to shopping, which was seen at the time as a necessary grey chore, into a colourful adventure. Never was this more articulated than through the now famous window displays. A fan of the theatre, he created retail theatre by shrouding the displays, which represented the ‘opening act’ of the store, with curtains before unveiling them to prospective customers. This tradition has carried on for over a hundred years with window displays being used to commemorate brands’ anniversaries, celebrate national landmarks or promote creative talent.

magnums
To mark Magnums ice creams the 25th anniversary, Selfridges displayed this in the window to celebrate and also introduced a ‘Make my Magnum’ pop-up stall. image credit: thebwd.com

Selfridge’s other interests, namely in academia and science, also found ways of permeating into the shop. The first plane to cross the English Channel as well as a demonstration from the inventor of the television, John Logie Baird made appearances in the store in hopes of attracting different and new types of customers. The store even featured a seismograph that was set up on the third floor in such a way that it didn’t obstruct traffic or shoppers. It was set up to create media publicity whenever a major earthquake occurred worldwide, which is exactly what it did when it recorded the Belgian earthquake of 1938.

Selfridges is not only famous for its displays, but also for its rooftop. Throughout the 20’s and 30’s, it became a hotspot to relax after a long days shopping and went on to become its own attraction. Since it was rebuilt in 2009 it’s hosted a multitude of chic and quirky events, such as the nine-hole golf course and even a green river and rowing boats complete wth cocktails for you to sip whilst you sail! This year it’s hotly been anticipating the summer with the launch of its Californian themed Roof Deck Resturant and Bar.

 

selfridges rooftop green lake
Thought we were joking? Selfridges really did put a green lake on their roof. Photo credit: TimeOut.com

 

The Oxford Street flagship and its three sister stores are also known for their astonishing architecture. The Oxford Street outlet and its three sister stores are also known for their astonishing architecture; the Birmingham building is even featured as a default desktop background image in Windows. The London store can be identified by the queen of time statue that proudly above the main entrance and that’s not there to look pretty. Before we had mobile phones, it was common to arrange a meeting place beneath a well-known clock.

Selfridges has been voted the best store in the world for an unprecedented three years in a row and it’s not hard to see why. It’s just a shame they don’t sell fridges.

Featured image credit: architainment.co.uk

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