It’s often said that Harry Selfridge was a man before his time, but most people takethis to mean that he was a thought leader. This is true. His unconventional approach changed retail altogether. However, his approach and his words suggest something much deeper. Harry Selfridge was a . He didn’tjust bring us the future we know, he .
Quicktimeline refresher: Selfridge passed away in 1947; 44 years before the WorldWide Web went public. He was also gone decades before business intelligencebecame part of the fabric of organisational strategy and way before data miningor AI existed. He did, however, catch the emergence of predictive analyticsthough at the time it was used only by governments as a means to decodemessages or identify risk to specific sites.
Yet,despite the times he lived in, and the fact that he had no way to know just howfar technology would take us, he predicted what’s happening here and now.Here’s the proof.
1.“PEOPLE WILL SIT UP ANDTAKE NOTICE OF YOU IF YOU WILL SIT UP AND TAKE NOTICE OF WHAT MAKES THEM SIT UPAND TAKE NOTICE”.
Let’sgo back in time and look at this through Selfridge’s lens again. Conservativeswere in control and the Labour Party was emerging. The Women's Social andPolitical Union (WSPU) had just formed to promote women’s suffrage. Selfridgehad just come to London and shocked by what he found in the shops. Items weretucked away over worries of theft and shoppers had to ask often unhelpful orbrusque attendants for assistance if they wanted to look at or purchaseanything. He knew he could do better, having had experience developing retailshops across the pond, and so in 1909, he launched Selfridge then coveredall the bases with his strategy. He treated his employees well, paying more thancompetitors. He trained them well too, insisting that they be helpful and notpushy. He took great care of his customers, turning shopping from a perfunctorytrip into an enjoyable all-day event. And, he supported women, created spaceswithin his shop for them to congregate without the usual stigma of the day thatcame from going out unattended. It worked.
Thatproves what he had to say was relevant to his time, but it’s also true now. Thedifference is we don’t have to rely on our guts or intuition to tell us whatmakes people take notice. We have data to show us where our audiences are andinformation necessary to identify what they’re interested in.
2.“HONESTY ALWAYS PAYS.HONESTY ALONE WILL NEVER BUILD A BUSINESS… BUT THE POLICY OF HONESTY, OFSCRUPULOUS INTEGRITY, WILL—OTHER THINGS BEING REASONABLY EQUAL—ALWAYS WIN INTHE RACE FOR SUCCESS.”
Honesty and integrity have always beenimportant, but in the days of yore, a slip up meant your blemish would onlytravel via word of mouth or would be quickly forgotten when a new scandal hitthe newsstands. Today, if you’re running a business without honesty orintegrity, word of your transgressions will be printed online before thetransaction is even complete. Those transgressions will follow you and haunt you,showing up every single time someone looks for information about your shoponline. The only way to correct a blemish is to bite the bullet, apologies, anddo the right thing. Every. Single. Time. Companies that don’t operate ethicallyor don’t correct mishaps not only lose business but go out of business forgood.
3.“TREAT [THE CUSTOMER] ASGUESTS WHEN THEY COME AND WHEN THEY GO, WHETHER OR NOT THEY BUY. GIVE THEM ALLTHAT CAN BE GIVEN FAIRLY, ON THE PRINCIPLE THAT ‘TO HIM THAT GIVETH SHALL BEGIVEN’. REMEMBER ALWAYS THAT THE RECOLLECTION OF QUALITY REMAINS LONG AFTER THEPRICE IS FORGOTTEN. THEN YOUR BUSINESS WILL PROSPER BY A NATURAL PROCESS”.
SELFRIDGE WAS GENUINELY AN ETHICAL MAN WHO TOOK GOOD CARE OF HIS STAFFAND COINED THE PHRASE ‘THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT’. IT WASN’T UNTIL YEARSAFTER HIS DEATH THAT PSYCHOLOGISTS BECAME INTERESTED IN THE PHENOMENON OFGIVING AND HOW IT IMPACTS SALES. WE NOW KNOW:
Letthat sink in for a moment. We’re in an age where your reputation is everything,people share their experiences with everyone online at breakneck speeds, andyou have the ability to (see what we did there?).
4.“EXCITE THE MIND, AND THE HAND WILL REACH FOR THEPOCKET”.
Selfridgeknew how to create value beyond the products he offered; in the communitygathering spaces he created for women, gardens, dining, classes, and otheractivities. And, as evidenced by his prior statement, he saw value in theseexperiences “whether or not they buy”. Selfridge knew the sale would eventuallycome because he used the space in his store to engage visitors. Engagingvisitors with an experience to create a relationship with a long-term customer.Sound familiar? That’s exactly how someone woulddescribe experiential marketing today.
Nowthat you see it, what will you do with it?
Theproblem is, so many retailers forget Selfridge’s messages. They’re focused onthe metric of how much a space costs per square metre. That’s not the metricthat matters. It’s the recollection—the emotional connection—that matters.While it may seem intangible, we can measure this with hard numbers now.Footfall, heatmaps, sentiment, followers, likes, and so much more, can beleveraged to gain insights on what your space is really doing for you.Selfridge knew this more than 100 years ago. If you’re not treating your spacelike it’s your greatest marketing campaign, it’s time to get up to speed. Startyou search here - https://popertee.ai/discover