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Gordon Selfridge, employed by Marshal Fields, a department store in Chicago, USA was disillusioned when his innovative ideas were not implemented. So he decided to set up his own business in England, placing Oxford Street on the shopping map when he purchased the site for £400,000 in 1909. At that time the shop had its own library, post office, American soda fountain and a Silence Room, where a sign read, 'Ladies will refrain from conversation'. He introduced his ideas of the annual sale, lighting the store windows at night and he coined the phrase 'only X shopping days till Christmas'.

Gordon Selfridge maintained an innovative ethos around the store, introducing things like credit and in-store exhibitions of the latest scientific discoveries. This led to the world's first television sales department, and after Amy Johnsons' epic flight to Australia, even a department selling aeroplanes! More recently, the innovations include fashion shows, book signings, beauty and food promotions.

During the second world war, Gordon Selfridge attempted to maintain 'business as usual'. He died in 1947. Selfridges was sold to his adversary, Lord Woolton, chairman of Lewis's, in 1951 for £3.4 million. In 1965 Charles Clore took control of Selfridges' shares and Selfridges and Lewis's merged with Sears.

In 1996 Selfridges decided to expand from the original site to other large cities in the UK. The first of these stores opened in Manchester in 1998, and the next one, designed by Future Systems archictects, will be in Birmingham. A further two stores are also planned.

In 1997 a demerger from Sears was instigated and in July 1998 Selfridges & Co. was re-established when it was again listed separately on the stock exchange. Selfridges maintains its core business in fashion and beauty, home and leisure, food and catering, attracting more brands every year, thus developing a reputation of being a 'house of brands'.

Recent refurbishment to the London store costing many millions of pounds has uncovered many of its original features such as the columns in the Beauty Hall. Also, there is now more selling space, it is easier to move around the store and departments have been brought into the 21st Century with features such as the Lab Café and a cat-walk.

In the last financial year, ending 28 February 2000 sales were £360.0 million, compared to £307.1 million for the previous year, an increase of 17.2 per cent. Overall trading profit, before exceptional items, increased by 27.7 per cent to £30.9 million. Profit before tax was £27.6 million compared to £13.9 million in the year 1998/1999.

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