It should come as no surprise that I like shopping. After all, my Twitter handle is @valshopaholic. However, as much as shopping can be a form of therapy – for we live in a society where we are taught to believe that having is better than not having, regardless of what it is that we have or how much of it we have – shopping is not always a pleasant experience.
I recently caught up on a wonderful British television series called Mr Selfridge which is a dramatisation of the life of Harry Gordon Selfridge, the self-made American entrepreneur who took his ideals to England and introduced a wonderful concept to the people called “the customer is always right” with his grand department store, Selfridges. The show is well-written and brilliantly acted and you cannot help but fall in love with every single one of the characters (or, in the case of the evil Lord Loxley and the jealous Mr Thackeray, you hate them from the moment you lay eyes on them).
But as much as I have loved the way the characters have been written, I have also become fascinated by the concepts around the act of shopping as an experience, much of which we take for granted now, more than a hundred years after Selfridges first opened its doors in London’s Oxford Street. Whilst we are all accustomed to the sight of cosmetics counters at the front of department stores and it may seem unfathomable that we are not allowed to try on clothes and accessories before paying for them, there once was a time when even touching a pair of gloves at the accessory counter was a big no-no. Harry Selfridge had the grand vision that shopping should be an experience for his customers and that his store should be presented as a place to dream, relax, enjoy, and basically spend their days (and fortunes).