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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Not John Baines

Thursday, March 26th., Cadogan Square, London.

I was walking in Selfridge's basement yesterday afternoon, idling between two appointments, when I met Selfridge in a rather old morning suit and silk hat. He at once seized hold of me and showed me over a lot of the new part of his store. Cold-storage for furs - finest in the world. Basement hall 550 feet long. Sub-basement with a very cheap restaurant where they serve 3,000 to 4,000 customers a day. he introduced me to the head of his baby-linen department saying: "Here is a gentleman wants things for three of his children, one is three months, another ten months, and another a year old." Then up his own private lift to the offices and his room, where I had to scratch my name with a diamond on the window - with lots of others. He showed me a lot of accounting. Then downstairs to book department. Fine bindings etc. His first remark was, taking up a book: "Human skin." I had to hurry away. He kept on insisting that it was wonderfully interesting. And it was.

Harry Gordon Selfridge, Sr. (1856 – 1947) was an American-born British retail magnate, who founded the London-based department store Selfridges. His 30-year leadership of Selfridges led to him becoming one of the most respected and wealthy retail magnates in the United Kingdom. His property portfolio included Highcliffe Castle in Dorset. Selfridge travelled from the USA to England in 1906 and invested £400,000 in his own department store in what was then the unfashionable western end of Oxford Street. The new store opened to the public on 15 March 1909 and Selfridge remained chairman until 1941 when he retired. In later life, Selfridge watched his personal fortune rapidly decline due, in part, to the Great Depression. It finally disappeared—a situation not helped by his continuing free-spending ways. In 1941, he left Selfridges and moved from his lavish home and travelled around London by bus. He is buried in St Mark's Churchyard at Highcliffe, Dorset.

London shops have a display far inferior to Paris shops. No style in setting out goods. There is simply no comparison between London and Paris in this respect. An article ought to be written about it, but no paper publishing drapers' advertisements would publish such an article.

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