"A New Era of Shopping"
The Promotion of Women's Pleasure in London's West End, 1909-1914
~Erika D. Rappaport~
Love Thyself at Selfridge's & Co.
Description of Topic: Rappaport examines a redefined meaning of shopping and a woman’s place in a prewar urban society. In particular, the opening of Harry Gordon Selfridge’s Oxford Street Department Store which emerged during a “new era” shaped by decades of economic and cultural transformations. She is interested in Selfridge’s role as an American owner and his influences in architectural styles, window displays, and creative marketing strategies, helping him achieve success within an expanding English commerce culture. Prior in the Victorian Era, shopping was considered in negative connotations as being “wasteful”, “indulgent” and even “immoral.” She examines how Selfridge rewrote the meaning of pleasure and what it meant for women to take part in, having their own needs meet in a new, innovative way. Most importantly, marketing strategies used through publicity such as print media to turn notions from the past and make them into legitimate pleasures. She looked closely at how transforming anxieties into profit through paid advertising became the success of Selfridge’s & Co. To do this, she looks at a range of sources, from early advertisements in newspapers, journals, and articles which illustrate a promise of satisfaction, indulgence, and excitement. Modern shopping became pleasurable and respectable, a notion of self-fulfillment and independence for women no longer feeling like a necessity. Underlying the usage of mass retailing and media, she carefully examines how Selfridge created the largest and most publicized department store which became the center of urban society in a time of social and cultural changes.
Store opened and changed shopping in London forever in 1909
Shoppers were able to get a taste of what was inside by viewing the large window displays that the Selfridge & Co. department store was known for
Summary of Key Points: Rappaport underlines the importance promoting the store emphasizing on women, their pleasures, and the city. Selfridge’s central strategy was challenging the pleasures of pre-existing urban commercial culture in order to showcase shopping from labor to leisure. It now became something sought out for and desired with the press repeatedly featuring consumption as public, sensual entertainment. She describes how featured ads and articles linked shopping to romance, novelty and tradition, sensuality, and consumption. In other words, it became a “home away from home,” shopping part of lifestyle as “a time of profit, recreation, and enjoyment.” One important part of her essay is that Selfridge sought a way to design and publicize the department store as a mixture of both elite and mass culture. While most ads were focused on immediate, forms of consumption, she examines how shopping became newly represented moreover as a unique female, urban pleasure in the West End although limited in areas largely due to political, social, and economic limits placed on women in public life. Selfridge’s was successful because he was able to give women access to both a public and private life through promises of escapism from a women’s place in the home.
To this day, window displays are still seen as shoppers and tourist walk through London's West End
A window display during the holiday season
Selfridge's in 2009 with all the windows lit up pink for a charity campaign
- Selfridge's was described as an "architectural masterpiece" from interior to exterior and as "A Pleasure-A Pastime- A Recreation." How are today's malls in Corpus Christi or within Texas in general similar to these ideas? How are they different?
- The essay describes that Selfridge's & Co. and other shopping experiences cater more toward women than they do men. Is this still the case in malls today? How and why?
- The opening of Selfridge's department store was both a largely publicized media event and visual, commercial spectacle that spread the social changes he inspired. What media accomplish this?