Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Selfridges exhibition: Celebrating 100 years

Selfridges, which has been gracing Oxford street for the past century, celebrates its 100th birthday this year. Started by Gordan Selfridges, an American entrepreneur who sailed across the Atlantic at the turn of the 20th century, Selfridges, as the mega shopping mall, came to be known, totally revamped the British shopping experience. Never before have shopping become a leisure activity made available to the general public.

Since its opening in 1909, Selfridges have survived the Great Depression and two World Wars, which is no small feat. Till this day, its imposing architecture continues to dominate the high street shopping belt along Oxford Street. Rumours has it that the management lobbied hard to get renamed Bond Street Underground Station to Selfridges Underground Station but the transport authorities stood their ground.

In conjunction to its 100th year celebration, Selfridges is holding an exhibition in its lower ground floor. The exhibition displayed the posters, decorations and little known historical facts on Selfridges. Also on display are window dressings (in miniature) that Selfridges is renowned for.

Just some sampler on the tidbits that I picked up from the Selfridges exhibition:

Do you know that

Selfridges exhibited the first plane that flew over water in 1909. 150,000 people caught a glimpse of Louis Bleriot's (the pilot) machine before it was removed. The tag line for the display? Calais - Dover - Selfridges

Gordan Selfridges' mantra for customer service - "If customers were treated courteously, whether they spent money or not, they would soon be back."

During the coronation of King George V in 1911, Gordan Selfridges deliberately sat the junior members of the royal family in front of Selfridges during the parade along Oxford Street. Upon seeing them, King George turned and waved. To the crowd it seemed that the King was endorsing Selfridges.

Selfridges spent £36,000 on advertisement for its grand opening. In today's currency, that would be £2.35 million, which established paid newspaper advertisement as mainstream advertising. Below are three of the entire poster series. (click on them for larger images)

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Exhibition ends on 15 Aug. Hey, it's free admission. If you're in the vicinity, do pop by.

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