Selfridges celebrated 100 years of business in March 2009

Harry Gordon Selfridge’s Oxford Street department store made history when it opened its doors for the first time and has continued to do so. In 1922 construction started on a western extension, in 2014 it was time for the eastern extension, which will be the largest investment ever for a single project by a department store, costing £300 million. The revamp is a massive overhaul that will take five years and increase the existing floorspace by ten per cent with a larger indoor retail space of 580,000 sq ft.

On completion of the works Selfridges will have replaced a loading bay with a grand new eastern entrance. Offices have also been relocated to reclaim space. The handbag department space has doubled and the mens and womens departments will combine into 50,000 sq ft on the ground floor. Where else would you also find the biggest denim department in the world at 26,000 sq ft and the largest men’s shoe department in the world at 15,000 sq ft. This larger shopping area will encompass over 100,000 sq ft and in effect becomes the world’s largest destination of accessories for men and women.

Pixie Lott at Selfridges, London.

jaimelondonboy / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Since the original store was designed in 1909 by an American architect Daniel Burnham it has seen huge amounts invested in its architectural expansion and the Selfridges brand has continued to grow and stay relevant.

Mr Selfridge retired in 1939 aged 83. In 1951, just four years after his death, the store was bought for £3.4 million by the Lewis Investment Trust. Selfridges had been instrumental in selling “televisors” when they first came on the scene and John Logie Baird had personally demonstrated a set at the store in 1925. And so in the early 50s when white goods first appeared the store was among the first to sell them.

1965 saw a successful take over by Sears Holdings for £63 million. In 1974 the store was bombed by the IRA but it continued to develop, spending £94 million in 1992 alone.

The store was bought in 2003 for circa £600 million by Canadian tycoon W Galen Weston. Weston’s portfolio for the group includes store chains in the Netherlands and Canada. Revenue in 2015 was over £487.5 million. This pricey investment demonstrates the Selfridges’ commitment to long term investment in its core property at Oxford Street and in their commitment to the best possible customer shopping experience, the tenet that Mr Selfridge had built his success on.

Forty years after the terrorist bomb, in 2014, David Chipperfield Architects were commissioned for the new development scheme designs of the Eastern entrance. David Chipperfield recently designed the Nobel Center in Stockholm, an exhibition centre for the Nobel Prize and are on the contenders list for the rebuilding of Crystal Palace.

ewen and donabel / Foter / CC BY
Selfridges Sushi bar

Teapot section

Today, the largest department store in the world is the Shinsegae (means ‘New World’) Centumcity Department Store, in Busan, South Korea. Previously the title had been with the Macy’s Department Store in New York. Of the world’s greatest department stores, not the largest, Selfridges is always rated among the top three.

A fitting tribute to Mr Selfridge and the brand. After all it was he that coined the phrase “the customer is always right.” It’s recent accolade as world’s best department store (Nov 2014) which it will hold until 2016, was in no small part awarded for first class in-store experience. During war years, Selfriges had also coinned the phrase “business as usual”, when women were called to do jobs that had been done by men, such as window cleaning.

A million people visited the store in the first week. 1922 saw 15 million shoppers through its doors. The shopping experience at Selfridges is among the best anywhere in the world. There have been many firsts. The first store to encourage browsing without having to actually buy anything and the first time a parfumerie was placed at the store entrance.

Music and restaurants were introduced in-store – The biggest bookshop in the world (1911). Largest retail group in Europe (1929). An ice rink, a nine hole golf course (2012), a shooting range, and boating lake with a waterfall (2011), on the roof. The first television commercial by a department store (1980s). And, the only store to be awarded the accolade of Best Department Store in the World, three times.