“What London needs is a good shaking up.” – was Andrew Carnegie‘s observation that distant 1900 as he found himself appalled by the simple fact that the shop people had been considerably better at driving away customers than at attracting them.
Back then, shopping was not necessarily an entertaining activity, but merely a rather difficult and time consuming chore: a woman, since it was prevalently women’s duty, was supposed to go to the store searching for specific, desirably not out of the ordinary, things, carefully order them and wait for the delivery.
Highly likely, if you were upper class, shopping was the main – if not the only – duty you had. Being it in time before the radio, TV, mass media, internet, and the only entertainment available, at least for women, being Sunday church, no wonder the same women, in search of their share of life pleasures, did something about it – with a little help from their male counterparts who understood this quite well.
The nineteenth-century passion for fashion, rise of buying in bulk on credit, and general lack of entertainment had provided the perfect conditions to develop department stores as we know them today.
Harry Gordon Selfridge opened his first department store in then unfashionable London Oxford Street on 15 March 1909. 400,000 Pounds Sterling, equivalent of one billion today’s US dollars, were invested into this grand and revolutionary project.
“A man light years ahead of his time, a true accelerator of change, he deserves to be remembered as the man who put fun on the shop floor and sex appeal into shopping.”
Indulge in this great read, and next time you visit London, make sure to visit Selfridges. It is still there, in the same place.