In 1909 – just one year after the first Selfridges store opened – the original showman of shopping, Harry Gordon Selfridge, decided to place the first aircraft to cross the English Channel on public display in the store. The monoplane, made from poplar wood covered in waterproof linen, was crafted and piloted by Louis Blériot, who flew 23 miles in a speedy 36 minutes and 30 seconds. After travelling across the country on two open railway trucks, the plane arrived at Cannon Street station and was taken to Selfridges, where it was reassembled and exhibited on the shop floor. Over 150,000 inquisitive visitors gathered over the course of four days to view the plane. In return for having the plane on display, Harry Gordon Selfridge gave £200 (the equivalent of £23,963 today) to the London Hospital and insured the plane for £10,000 (around £1,198,150 today) against “fire, death or accident” for the duration of the exhibition.
“I am always prepared to sell anything, from an aeroplane to a cigarette. As a matter of fact, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be selling Blériot planes in numbers at no distant date. This one may have cost Mr Blériot hundreds – thousands of pounds if we calculate the entire cost of his experiments in serial navigation over the past few years; but the actual cost of the material used in its construction cannot be very much, apart from the engine. In any case, the price, before long, ought not to be beyond the means of anyone with the necessary amount of skill and courage.”
– Harry Gordon Selfridge, The Daily Telegraph