Sunday, April 9, 2017
The Queen of Time
I have been shopping at Selfridges in London on past trips but I didn't know anything about the history of that great store on Oxford Street. Then, last year I watched a television series called "Mr. Selfridge" about the life of Harry Gordon Selfridge so a visit to that store had a lot more meaning on this last visit to London. Did any of you see that show? What a fascinating man. Selfridge was an American who had made a career in retail at Marshall Field's in Chicago, another grand department store. When he felt his career had taken him as far as it could in Chicago, he decided to start his own store in London using the more "American" version of department store retailing. He built the store in phases between 1909 and 1926 and his brand of retail sales became such a success that it was copied by other big stores in the city.
Selfridge always had some new idea that would put his store in the forefront of the news. In 1931, he commissioned a clock to be created by sculptor Gilbert Bayes and installed over the front doors of his magnificent store. The sculpture was called the Queen of Time and was made of bronze with a polychrome finish. It is a stunning piece of art that is as beautiful today as it was when it was first unveiled.
But not wanting to just stand outside and admire the clock, I decided a little retail therapy was in order so I went inside.
Selfridges has the second largest retail space in London after Harrods. It boasts the largest shoe department in the city with over 4,000 pairs of shoes at any given time. My kind of place!
After browsing that shoe department, I had a wonderful lunch at one of the many restaurants inside the store. I knew there were quite a few places to eat so I asked a sales clerk for a recommendation and she didn't steer me wrong. I had a delicious salad at Aubaine, a French Bistro.
After lunch I did some more shopping around the store and found myself on the lower level looking at kitchenware and cookbooks when I spotted Harry Gordon's Bar & Kitchen.
I couldn't resist so I treated myself to a glass of champagne while admiring the portrait of Harry Gordon Selfridge as he looked before losing his place at the helm of the store he created.
If you watched the "Mr. Selfridge" series, you know the story. He was a genius at retail marketing but he had a little problem with gambling and women that led to his loss of control of the store. However, his store has survived. Actually, it has thrived and it still bears his name. That certainly says something for his ingenuity and marketing prowess.