The Selfridges Story: 1909 - present

Thought-provoking, unconventional and fearlessly creative: at Selfridges we have always sought to do things a little differently. You see, our stores in London, Manchester and Birmingham are run on imagination. They’re social spaces, not just shops. They’re environments in which you can enjoy extraordinary experiences that you can’t find elsewhere. So join us as we explore the secrets and stories that make Selfridges so special...

Harry Gordon Selfridge


Harry's top five firsts

Now immortalised in Mr Selfridge the TV show (available to stream online), the founder of our store, Harry Gordon Selfridge, changed the world of retail forever when he opened our London store in March 1909. But did you know just how many ways in which he transformed the way we shop?


Making beauty big business

Harry was the first to bring beauty products to the front of a department store. He wanted women to try the products rather than them being hidden behind a counter and, rumour has it, the perfumes helped mask the scent from horses and carts on a busy Oxford Street!


Making a spectacle

Today, Selfridges’ window displays are famous across the world, but back in the early 1900s the theatricality, scale and even the fact that these were the first store windows to be lit at night meant crowds gathered around them at all times of the day.


Championing women's rights

Harry Gordon Selfridge was a big supporter of women's rights, creating window displays that supported the Suffragettes. He even (can you believe it?!) created the first toilets for women in a department store.


The theatre of retail

Live music, dancing and amazing interactive displays: Harry Gordon Selfridge brought true theatre to our shopping experience. On the lower ground you can visit Dolly’s Café, named after the Dolly Sisters who performed in store (and wooed Harry himself!).


Tuning in

Harry Gordon Selfridge was the first retailer to bring the newly invented Television to British customers in 1925 and he even built a radio mast on the roof to send live music recordings from the store to the capital.

The Selfridges yellow rose, 2017 – a specially commissioned artwork by Luke Stephenson


The story of Selfridges yellow

We're famous for our yellow carrier bag – but how did yellow become so synonymous with Selfridges? Well, like every great love story, this one started with a rose – a yellow one, to be precise. 
The Selfridges rose variety was first grown to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Selfridges in 1984, with roses planted in nearby Hyde Park (aka our favourite lunchtime picnic spot). Our founder, Harry Gordon Selfridge, was a keen gardener and called the rose ‘the emblem of the house of Selfridge’ (many hubbie brownie points there, we imagine, as his wife was also called Rose). It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the Selfridges yellow carrier bag first became the It-bag for all, making this bright and buoyant colour synonymous with Selfridges. 


A window into our world

We like to think of our windows as life-sized postcards, telling magical stories through a unique blend of fashion, art and design. Some of our most memorable include the 'No Noise' campaign windows, where iconic items – Marmite jars, Heinz Ketchup, the Selfridges yellow carrier bag (shock horror!) – were stripped of their branding; the Fragrance Lab, where customers could walk through the windows as part of a 'fragrance profiling' experience, and when Paddington Bear appeared with a full-size London taxi. In fact, did you know that the author of Paddington Bear, Michael Bond, was inspired to write those very books by a toy bear he bought here at Selfridges? 

A store should be like a song of which one never tires.

Harry Gordon Selfridge
Rooftop boating lake, 2011 / Sink The Pink Christmas pantomime, 2016


More than a shop

Harry Gordon Selfridge was known as 'the showman of shopping', exhibiting the first plane to fly over the Channel and placing an ice rink and shooting range on the roof (completely safe, we're sure!). And, today, the theatrics are as eyebrow-raising as ever – over the past few years we’ve hosted performances by east London’s renowned party starters, Sink The Pink (including a set that recreated a traditional London pub), a Shakespearean theatre, a boating lake and mini golf course on the roof, and a state-of-the-art music venue. Why? Because what greater luxury is there than a brilliant memory shared between friends? 

Kate Daudy's 'London: A Psychological Landscape', 2017 / Yayoi Kusama store takeover, 2012


State of the arts

We are proud to champion renowned and upcoming artists in our stores and we continue to commission artworks to share with our customers, including the new Selfridges Art Block in our Accessories Hall in London, which will showcase a different installation every six months. Some of our favourite previous art collaborations include Chinese artist Song Dong's edible installation made entirely of biscuits in 2006; Spencer Tunick's 'body sculpture', featuring hundreds of naked individuals (including some brave Selfridges team members) standing on our escalators in 2003; Yayoi Kusama's polka-dot store takeover in 2012; and Kate Daudy’s ‘psychological map of London’ made in 2017.

A store should be a social centre, not merely a place for shopping.

Harry Gordon Selfridge
Project Ocean launch celebrations, 2011


Causes for celebration

Back in the day, Harry Gordon Selfridge was a big supporter of the Suffragettes, creating window displays championing the cause (in fact, Selfridges was one of the only stores on Oxford Street not to have its windows smashed by the Suffragettes). Today, Selfridges continues to support causes it believes in. Take Project Ocean, for example. As part of this long-term project to help protect our precious oceans from over-fishing and plastic pollution, we have removed all endangered fish, beauty products containing plastic microbeads and single-use plastic water and fizzy drink bottles from our stores. Oh, and did we mention Selfridges has its own 50-hectare marine reserve in the Philippines? We're still trying to work out a feasible work-related reason for why we need to visit…

The Brass Rail Restaurant / Afternoon Tea at Dolly's Cafe


Come dine with us

In our book, no shopping trip is truly complete without a slice of cake or perhaps a glass of champagne – shopping is ever-so tiring, right? From The Brass Rail, which has been serving up tasty salt beef dishes in our London Foodhall for over 50 years, to a brilliantly British afternoon tea at one of our cafés or an indulgent meal at our rooftop restaurant, we know how to dine in style. And in some very exciting (not to mention hunger-inducing news), we will be opening an amazing new restaurant in the façade of our new Duke Street entrance later this year, featuring vaulted ceilings, an incredible design and truly extraordinary food. 

Develop imagination, throw away routine. 

Harry Gordon Selfridge


Surprising services

From having buttons sewn onto your jacket for free to visiting the Information Bureau where questions about ‘any subject under the sun’ could be answered within minutes (aka the 1920s alternative to the internet), we have a rich heritage of offering surprising services you won’t find elsewhere. Today, we may not have a complimentary button-stitching service (although you can personalise everything from a bracelet to a bottle of champagne), but we do have our bomber-jacket-wearing gift gurus, the Elfridges, and our very own in-store psychics, The Psychic Sisters.      


A taste of Selfridges

As proud holders of the Royal Warrant for supplying food and household goods to Her Majesty The Queen, we knew our own food and drink range needed to be truly special. From shortbread made at the foot of Ben Nevis in Scotland to black sugar-dusted cinder toffee coal crafted near Northumbria’s former coal mines and British sparkling wine (yes, we can make wine on this little island – and it’s delicious), each Selfridges Selection item is perfect for treating yourself or your fellow foodie. Just one word of caution: the British pudding fudge is possibly the most moreish thing we’ve ever tasted – we challenge you to stop at eating just one piece…    


A vision realised

Be it the columns of our London flagship, the 15,000 aluminium discs cladding our Birmingham building, or the gleaming glass façade of Manchester Exchange Square – our stores are pretty breathtaking, even if we do say so ourselves. But we're always looking for ways to make them even more extraordinary. At our London store we have been transforming a whole side of the building with a vast new entrance and new shopping experiences, including The Accessories Hall which is filled with the world's greatest accessories brands, a cocktail bar and personalisation services.


The Golden Book

Our Golden Book is a thing of legend, carefully locked away and only seen by a few. Behind its lustrous cover lie the signatures of every celebrity or royal family member who has ever visited Selfridges, from Pavarotti to Muhammad Ali, John Lennon to Beyoncé. While the Golden Book may be kept securely under lock and key, our stores have hosted numerous celebrity appearances and performances that are open to all, from Stevie Wonder performing at the opening of our Wonder Room in 2007 to Victoria Beckham launching her make-up collection with Estée Lauder in our Beauty Hall.