Shoppers who have been greeted by the colorful cosmetic displays and pleasurable perfume aromas when first entering a department store or who have counted down the shopping days left until Christmas have one retail genius to thank: Harry Gordon Selfridge. American born businessman Mr. Selfridge gained 25 years of experience in the department store industry in Chicago before moving his family to London to build his own store which opened in 1909. When Harry visited London on business trips for Marshall Fields in Chicago, he was displeased to see the shops kept all merchandise behind counters and customers were forbidden from “just looking” without the intent to buy. He wanted shopping to be an entertaining and enjoyable experience for all social classes. This dream led him to build Selfridges on Oxford Street in London, which still exists today as the city’s second largest department store (second only to Harrod’s).
In Lindy Woodhead’s biography Shopping, Seduction and Mr. Selfridge she weaves together the intriguing life story of the charismatic department store legend that was known as “the Chief” to his staff and as the “Earl of Oxford Street” to the rest of London and the world. Harry Gordon Selfridge was a brilliant business man but he was not without his troubles, having a weakness for gambling and women, not to mention the abandonment of himself by his father at a young age. Ms. Woodhead completed extensive research of the family and business archives and provides valuable historical background of the time period to help paint the big picture for her readers. The journey begins with Harry’s life in America, then moves to England in the early 1900’s where the infamous Selfridge’s store would see Harry, his family and staff through WWI, the Roaring 20’s, the Great Depression and WWII. Harry Gordon Selfridge was an innovator with ideas so advanced for his time he usually saw more opposition than acceptance, which all makes for a captivating business lesson and scandal filled pages readers won’t be able to resist.
Readers should also check out the television show Mr. Selfridge, co-produced by iTV in the UK and Masterpiece Classic in the US and starring Jeremy Piven (Entourage) as Harry Selfridge. The show follows the lives of Harry, his wife and children and the department store’s staff in an enthralling yet historically accurate way, using Lindy Woodhead’s biography as their source. The third season of the series finished airing on PBS in May 2015 and a fourth and final season is expected to air beginning March 2016. Mr. Selfridge is available for streaming through Amazon Prime and for sale on Blu-ray/DVD. Lindy Woodhead’s book Shopping, Seduction and Mr. Sefridge is available wherever books and eBooks are sold, as well as available for loan at local libraries. The story of Harry Gordon Selfridge and his ground breaking store is not one to be missed.