Editor's View - April 2013

Cultivate A Bit Of Selfridge
By Wanda Jankowski, Editor-in-Chief

Perhaps you’ve seen the PBS tv channel’s program “Mr. Selfridge,” which revolves around the opening of the Selfridges store in London in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, Sr. Though the story line is largely fictionalized, it does incorporate some factual details about the store and the Selfridge family.

Selfridge spent 25 years working his way up at Marshall Field’s in Chicago before taking his American chutzpah to London and transforming the retail scene there. Selfridge is notable in retail history for his ability to see beyond the “norm,” breaking new ground in how to present merchandise and attract customers.

His retail philosophy, novel at the time, was that shopping should not be a chore, but an adventurous, leisurely activity—an experience. Innovations he debuted at Selfridges include:

  • Displaying merchandise, which previously in London shops had been tucked away in drawers until the sales associate brought out individual pieces for customer viewing, in full view so customers could freely examine it.
  • Incorporating into the store areas and activities that would keep customers on the premises for as long as possible, encouraging them to buy more. These included restaurants, a library, reading and writing rooms, and a Silence Room with soft lights, comfortable chairs and double-glazing. In the 1920s and 1930s, the building’s roof was used for fashion shows, and featured terraced gardens, cafes, a mini-golf course and an all-girl gun club, not to mention the fantastic view of London, all at shoppers’ disposal.
  • Insuring easy access to the store by arranging for number “1” to be the store’s phone number—anyone who dialed it directly connected to Selfridges operators.
  • Drawing in customers with attention-grabbing educational and scientific events and displays. In 1909, the monoplane Louis Bieriot used for the first cross-Channel flight was viewed by 12,000 store visitors. From April 1 to 17, 1925, John Logie Baird conducted the first public demonstration of television on the first floor of the store.

The concept of creating a shopping experience is commonplace today. Perhaps tough economic times have put a damper on producing spectacular events or the inclusion of non-retail spaces in-store to draw in the buying public, and have encouraged heavy reliance on well-worn sale and coupon techniques to entice customers.
However, the world is such that just when you think no new spin or way is possible, consumer thirst for something new allows that if you think beyond the “norm” and use available tools at your fingertips, success through creativity is reachable.

Cococozy is a 21st century phenomenon, started by a woman with no home textiles background, but with a passion for design. She is a master of the blog format, creating a persona that appeals particularly to younger customers today. She presents herself as one of them—the girlfriend next door, the neighbor down the block—offering fresh, “soft” modern product designs that complement the easygoing, lively lifestyle projected in the fun details of her blog. Read more about Cococozy’s success via the internet and now with supplier partnerships in “Industry Views” to the right.

Then, cultivate a little bit of Selfridge in yourself—some beyond-the-norm thinking to increase the relevance of your venture and push it just a step ahead of the pack.


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