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Selfridge, Harry Gordon

Selfridge, Harry Gordon, 1858–1947, American-British retail merchant, b. Ripon, Wis. He moved to Chicago in 1876, where he started a successful 25-year career at Marshall Field & Co., developing it into a modern department store. In 1906, on a trip to London after having retired, he realized that retailers there were not up to American and French standards, and he decided to build a modern department store. Designed to make shopping a pleasurable pastime and to encourage browsing, the Selfridge & Co. store in London opened in 1909. Selfridge emphasized the American idea of customer service and used extensive advertising and promotions, and introduced a makeup and perfume department on the ground floor, making cosmetics more acceptable. He became a British subject in 1937. The store did well until the 1930s, when the Great Depression and Selfridge's lavish spending and gambling got the store into debt. He was forced into retirement in 1941 and lived on a small pension until his death.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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