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Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,736 ratings  ·  234 reviews
If you lived at Downton Abbey, you shopped at Selfridge’s.

Harry Gordon Selfridge was a charismatic American who, in twenty-five years working at Marshall Field’s in Chicago, rose from lowly stockboy to a partner in the business which his visionary skills had helped to create. At the turn of the twentieth century he brought his own American dream to London’s Oxford Street w
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 12th 2013 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published October 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  1,736 ratings  ·  234 reviews

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Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Having visited Selfridges several times, I was very curious about this book. It was delightfully entertaining and educational.

The biography traces Harry Gordon Selfridge's life and career, beginning with his youth in Chicago. He hones his marketing skills at Marshall Field's and, when his desired partnership is denied, he moves his family to London to start the store of his dreams.

Selfridge seems to have been the predecessor of The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage, as
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
As someone drawn to this book because I so enjoyed the tv series based on it I didn't know what to expect. For those looking for a pure biography of the man it is not, it is much more. It gives you hints about Selfridge his life to a point but it also sets it in historical context. Putting things in the right place unlike the tv series did. His wife must have been a very strong articulate women as she had her own interests in building and architecture. Sadly in the series she is not given the ch ...more
Beth (bibliobeth)
I didn’t manage to catch any of the recent successful TV series Mr Selfridge when it aired in the UK, but it was based on this biography by Lindy Woodhead, and when my book club picked it as May’s choice of book I was intrigued to find out more about Harry Gordon Selfridge and his famous store. Harry was a bit of a pioneer in the retail world, a ball of energy, and incredibly creative and dedicated. He worked his way up in the department store Marshall Field’s in Chicago, which was developed and ...more
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Harry Selfridge was a truly remarkable man. Nicknamed "Mile-a-minute" Harry on account of his dynamism and ideas, he inspired and delighted most of those he met. His working life was devoted to retail and his creativity and energy transformed shopping, both in Chicago and more significantly in London's Oxford Street where he opened and developed his iconic department store. What also shined through in this book, in addition to his genius for retail, was his humanity and kindness. He was not some ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
The man revolutionized shopping. I would have loved to see Selfridge's in its day. Even now, it must be something to see, with its famous window displays. Who wouldn't have loved a rooftop garden! You can take skateboarding lessons there these days. Sounds like a great place. As for the man himself, Woodhead presents him positively here, if a little eccentric. I'm sure he was a good boss. The end of his life was pretty pitiful, but a lot of that was of his own making. ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review is the result of winning a GoodReads giveaway.

To be perfectly honest, I saw the cover of this book and realized it was the book the series “Mr. Selfridge” was based on. I was planning on watching the show so I wanted to read the book. While the series says it is based on this book, it is heavily fictionalized. So don’t go looking for your favorite on-screen characters to make an appearance in the book. Only Selfridge, his family and some historical figures make the transition.

The boo
Irving Koppel
Jul 27, 2013 rated it liked it

This is an amazing story of a small town boy from Wisconsin who had a genius for merchandising.It is
also a book that traces the liberation of women from the restraints of excessive,uncomfortable clothing to the modern,much less cumbersome apparel of today. Harry Selfridge's story is a true "rags
to riches"story.

While impoverished in his youth,he took his innate business skills to Chicago where he became second in command to Marshall Field at Field's department store. He then took the skills wh
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you've looked at my non-fiction shelves you know I find the history of retail totally fascinating and this book is an excellent entry in that genre. The Crawley sisters would definitely have shopped at Selfridges on their trips to London; but don't let the cover reference to the Masterpiece Theater series "Mr. Selfridge" lead you to expect a soap opera. This is a well-researched biography of the man, and because the store was pretty much his life, it's an excellent history of the store. Too b ...more
Ellie Cook
Mar 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
What I really wanted from this book was a glimpse into the changes in shopping that Selfridge brought around. What I got was a gossipy, disordered stream of prose that lacked clear information. Disappointing.
Reasonably enjoyable biography of the American founder of the Selfridge's Department Store in London. I found the earlier chapters, especially concerning Chicago and the rise of the Marshall Field Department store, to be especially interesting. By the later chapters, once he moved to London, it felt like the author engaged in a little too much name-dropping. I also question whether the author adequately investigated her claims that Selfridge brought many innovations to London retailing (not help ...more
JB Rowley
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I was fascinated to discover the origins of the famous Selfridges store and surprised to learn that its creator was not an Englishman but an American who dazzled London ‘after twenty-five years working at the celebrated store Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago.’

Mr Selfridge’s understanding that women liked to be seduced into buying rather than badgered was significant to his success. He was enthusiastic, innovative, passionate about the retail business and a bold entrepreneur fertile with brilliant
Davney Stahley
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am absolutely enjoying this book! Having seen the PBS mini-series a few months ago I am fascinated about how all the "shopping stuff" we see today was pioneered in Paris, Chicago and London and how Marshall Field, Harry Selfridge and the like changed the face of retail. Well written and interesting. Having seen the series, I can also imagine Harry, his style, his passion, his women and gambling, and yet, his devotion to his mother, wife and children. Wonderful!

Had to finish this book so that B
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british-history
Not being a Londoner, Selfridge's is not a store I visit very often or indeed even think about. It was only after the ITV series Mr Selfridge began airing that this book came to my attention, and what an interesting little read it was. I never would have expected to become so engrossed in the history of a retail magnate, of business innovations, of a department store!

Harry Gordon Selfridge really paved the way for the art of shopping as we know it today. So many things that we take utterly for g
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
The PBS series on Selfridge's is very popular and conveys how the real Harry Gordon Selfridge's personality quite well. This nonfiction book goes into details about his early life in America and his life in England. While Harry became a lady's man in his later years, was addicted to gambling and loved spending beyond his means, he also loved his wife. He loved his children but did not spend much time with them and when the girls married, he paid all the bills for them and their husbands. His so ...more
Maggie Craig
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a tour de force. Full of fascinating facts and colourful people, it reads as a easily as a novel. Billed on the cover as "the true story that inspired the ITV drama", it's the non-fiction version of Harry Gordon Selfridge's life and the eponymous department store he created in London's West End 100 years ago.

Selfridge was an American who'd had a successful career in retail in Chicago when, in his early fifties, he brought himself and his family across the Atlantic to fulfil his drea
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Having glimpsed parts of the PBS broadcasted episodes, I was interested in reading the whole story. This is a very well done biography, but if you are looking for fast paced and similar to the broadcast version, you will be very disappointed.
Selfridge is a very driven man with incredible ideas that revolutionized the shopping experience. The photos included in the book are essential in visualizing the window and store displays, as well as the immensity of the building he constructed. But with
Jennifer Lafferty
Aug 23, 2014 rated it liked it
This book provided some interesting insight concerning the life and character of retail pioneer Harry Selfridge. The creative and cutting edge entrepreneur who first made a name for himself at Marshall Field's before revolutionizing retail in London with his own iconic department store, had a a life that was colorful, to say the lest. This book carefully chronicles his life and the history of Selfridge's with impressive detail. The book does drag at times. Parts of the book are a little too acad ...more
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, reviewed
Got this from the library because it's the book on which the television series was based. Reading the book I found out the show plays fast and loose with the truth, and Mr. Selfridge played fast and loose with show girls at various times in his life, but mostly in his declining years when neither his wife nor his mother were around as moderating influences.

The book itself is organized more like a scrapbook outlining significant events and achievements, rather than a biography that makes a story
Linda  "The Book Lady" Warner
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a historian, I love history books. If you are watching public television maybe you have watched Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece Theater. This book is the real history. I love Mr. Selfridge the TV show and this book.

Selfridge was a self made man. His father disappeared after the American Civil War and his mother had to support Harry and his brother, both of which never lived long. From Ripon WI just 13-14 miles from where I sit, which surprised me. He finally goes to London and starts Selfridge's
Marsella Johnson
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book that the popular PBS series "Mr. Selfridge" is based on. Harry Selfridge was the B.T. Barnum of the retail business. He was flamboyant, but principled and good to his employees. An egotistical womanizer who adored his wife and mother. He had a "little man" complex and was impeccably dressed at all times, he expected higher standards but his retail staff adored him. He built one of the biggest retail empires of his time but died broke. A man of many contradictions, but that ...more
Debra Duhoux
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let's go Shopping!

I first watched the PBS series Mr. Selfridge starring Jeremy Piven. Loved it. So, when this was book offered on Kindle I grabbed it. It was well worth buying as it is wonderfully written and extremely well researched. A lot of the story lines on the PBS series were fictionalized but not to the point of distraction but reading this put it into perspective. Our modern shopping stores are the result of Harry Gordon Selfridge's imaginative and acute business sense. We shoppers owe
Sherri Jordan
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I watched the series not to long ago and of course wanted to find out more about this man. He was a true pioneer in the area of shopping. So many of the sales techniques that are used today were his idea. He was not however the most stalwart of husbands and he had many mistresses. Although names are changed many of the things in the tv series are based on true events and/or people. Interesting read esp if you enjoy bios and the 1920's. ...more
Paula Gagnon Houwen
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
I'm not sure many Americans realize that the BBC series is mostly true. The major events of Selfridge's life are woven into the series, with a lot of dramatic fiction thrown in. This book will help you appreciate what Harry Selfridges did for marketing in Britain. He was a force to be reckoned with. Entertaining and educational book! I read it twice. ...more
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fit in very well with Downton Abbey and "To Marry an English Lord". Similar time period and characters. I'm looking forward to the new TV series that starts tonight "Mr. Selfridge". I'll be watching it while you all start Downton Abbey Season 3! Enjoy--and keep your kleenex close by! ...more
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Subject matter quite fascinating, but they author jumps around chronologically, assumes reader knowledge about some things and over-explains others. I imagine this is a great story, wish this book told it better. Perhaps the upcoming PBS Masterpiece will do just that!
Mary Pauline M
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. About three quarters of the way thru, I realized that I should have just waited for the third season of the show. I'm glad I read it though. ...more
Jeanette Michalets
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I greatly enjoyed this biography of Harold Gordon Selfridge, Ripon, Wisconsin's hometown boy, who became the king of the "modern day" department store in London at the turn of the last century.

Always ambitious and hardworking, Selfridge worked his way up from poverty as the only living son of a single mother who was forced to work as a teacher in the 1860s and '70s after her husband abandoned the family after the Civil War. "Harry," as he was called worked his way up in the ranks of Marshall Fie
R.A. Dalkey
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
In many ways this was the ideal read for me: I much prefer an instructive true-life storyline padded out with loads of interesting history to fiction. It wasn't just the tale of Henry Selfridge's remarkable life, but that of a world that changed into something barely recognisable by the time he died. A world that moved at breakneck speed through relentless new technology, changing morals and fashions, and the rise of the middle class - not to mention revolutions and wars. Selfridge's life and wo ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Transforming shopping and British retailing

Harry Gordon Selfridge had already made his mark in American retailing at Marshall Fields. He wanted to go it alone or at least as a partner. Maybe America was too small for Harry. He had ginormous dreams an he acted on them! He was a kid and Oxford Street, London was his playground. He promised to change shopping forever, and he did.

Woodhead did an excellent job of portraying early -20th century life in America and in Britain. The main difference was s
Leslie Goddard
Apr 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a nicely researched, very readable book. I didn’t come at it, it appears, because of the PBS series, and maybe that’s a good thing. Jeremy Piven’s Mr. Selfridge strikes me as markedly different in some ways from the Harry Gordon Selfridge in this book, and I found the book-based Mr. Selfridge much more complex and interesting.

What’s really fascinating, and what this book explores so well, is how Selfridge was brilliant in many ways (energetic, big-dreaming, with an instinctive knack for
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Lindy Woodhead worked in international fashion public relations for over 25 years. During the late 1980s she spent two years as the first woman on Harvey Nichols' board of directors. Lindy retired from fashion in 2000 to concentrate on writing; her first book, War Paint (Virago), a biography of Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, was published in 2003. She is a regular contributor to The Specta ...more

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“The whole art of merchandising,” he said, “consists of appealing to the imagination.” 2 likes
“The whole art of merchandising,” he said, “consists of appealing to the imagination. Once the imagination is moved, the hand goes automatically to the purse.” 0 likes
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