The series Mr. Selfridge starring Jeremy Piven, has been popular on both sides of the Atlantic and has been broadcast on our local PBS station AETN, for the past two seasons, with season three expected to begin early next year. Now there is a book about the life of the real Harry Selfridge titled Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead, which fans of the show should enjoy.
The book primarily focuses on the career of the legendary transplanted American department store owner in London. We learn how Selfridge got his start, working for Marshall Field in Chicago, rising from office boy to company executive. The author describes how he went on to found his own palatial retail establishment in London, unlike anything the city had ever seen before, and in the process, revolutionized shopping forever.
The book gives a detailed and comprehensive overview of 19th century retail, explaining the evolution of the department store in the midst of growing metropolises and the changing needs of consumers. Harry Selfridge was a key figure, even a pioneer in retail during the socially, industrially and technologically transformative era of the early twentieth century.
Selfridge’s colorful and somewhat unusual personal life is also examined. He was, in some respects, a contradiction. He was a loving, dedicated family man on one hand and an adulterer, with numerous mistresses on the other. Having a close relationship with his mother, Lois, after his father abandoned them and his brothers died, it was Lois who ran his household and was perhaps his greatest business advisor.
He was a man full of ambition, optimism, eccentricity and audacity. Harry Selfridge was like many successful entrepreneurs, a gambler and a visionary, whose risks frequently paid off but at times led to disastrous consequences.
Lindy Woodhead is also the author of War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden, Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry.