Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge


How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Bibliobeth for our book club read.


In 1909, the maverick American retailer Harry Gordon Selfridge opened the West End of London’s first dedicated department store to a blaze of glorious publicity – the culmination of the largest advertising campaign ever mounted in the British press.

No one understood the sex appeal of shopping better than Selfridge, and his fervent belief in consumerism as both sensual and theatrical entertainment ensured the success of his eponymous Oxford Street store.

But the ‘showman of shopping’ would eventually be undone by an insatiable addiction to gambling, extravagant mansions and even more extravagant mistresses. Thirty years after building his revolutionary store, Selfridge was ousted in a boardroom coup. The self-made millionaire died virtually penniless in 1947.

Set against the heady growth of twentieth century consumerism, Lindy Woodhead explores the rise and fall of the retail prince whose fusion of shopping and seduction has left a lasting legacy, symbolised by the towering Ionic columns of Selfridges.


If this wasn’t for a book club read, I don’t think I would’ve picked it up. I have nothing against non fiction reads, but for me, I like to be catapulted into a make-believe world with made up characters. Reading for me is an escape.

I found the book interesting at points, but in some parts it is very dry. I found myself skimming the text to get through it. Some parts are particularly heavy going as well. The book did have some strong points though. I liked reading about Harry’s ideas, especially as many are still part of our shopping experience today. He really worked hard to introduce new ideas, he treated his staff well and made it special when there was a coronation or election.

A lot of the book focuses on his private life, which there isn’t actually that much information about out there. It seemed to me that there were a lot of loose ends which weren’t really tied up.

Personally, I wouldn’t re-read this book, it was interesting enough, but I don’t think I have a big enough interest in the history of shopping to really appreciate it. I think if you do have an interest in the history of shopping then you would thoroughly enjoy this read!

Would I recommend it?:
It wasn’t for me!- I enjoyed it, but read it because it was a book club choice.

Reading next:
Heidi- as part of Bibliobeth and I’s kid lit challenge!

4 thoughts on “Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge

  1. Yes, I can see that you would have to have a real interest to just pick this up. But that’s what’s great about book clubs – they force us to expand our tastes. Still, I admire you for ploughing through it.

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