Newest Review: ... The store has 6 levels and even has it's hair salon, pharmacy and travel agents. Selfridges is a great place to shop if want designer prod... more
I Died and Went to Shopping Heaven
Member Name: plipplop
Advantages: Enormous range of cool things
Disadvantages: Food hall not a patch on Harrods
London's Selfridge's occupies an enormous plot smack bang in the bustle and fever of Oxford Street. If you're travelling by Tube it's smack between Marble Arch and Bond Street stations. If you're in a car, park, get out and get the Tube.
Originally built in 1909, the large department store is architecturally magnificent, with impressive stone work and features all the way round to distract anyone who isn't already distracted by the vivid window displays. The building was actually completed in phases, some of which were planned and never actually completed, including a huge tower designed to rise above the base levels. The concept of a department store was really introduced to the UK by Selfridge's. It was the first department store to have a perfume counter at the bottom, and tried, tested and profitable formula that is now the most instantly recognisable feature of a modern department store. The Oxford Street store has always housed exhibitions and curios, including the plane that was used to cross the channel for the first time in 1909 and the first public demonstration of television in 1925. Even today, there are regular (and often bizarre) art exhibitions.
Today, Selfridge's remains cutting edge, with an astounding selection of items for the modern shopper. Across multiple floors, the store boasts an enormous range of clothes, furniture, toys, kitchen ware, luggage, books and so much more. It is the only shop in the UK where you can truly spend the better part of a day wandering round. The facilities are good (for London) with toilets on every floor, lifts and escalators in multiple locations and reasonable access facilities for wheelchair-users. (Arguably, the cramped layout of some of the departments goes against this aim and you can't help feeling the store is simply paying lip service to those less able to get around.)
For the fashion-conscious, Selfridge's is a slice of heaven. The menswear takes up an enormous floor space, dwarfed only by the far larger floor space dedicated to ladies' wear. The underwear section alone carries more stock than your average high street clothing shop and every taste seems catered for. The concessions include the real top end designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Y3 and John Rocha, to the more popular, trendy street labels such as Energie, Abercrombie and D & G, all carrying the very latest ranges for which most shops only ever manage to scrape together a very basic selection. The layout is loud and funky, with groovy lighting, pounding music (often with live DJ sets) and wild displays. Amazingly, you'd expect the staff in these concessions to be really snotty, and whilst some of them need a good slap, generally the service is really good. They take time to help you find what you're after, stay with you and give advice and guidance on what goes and what doesn't go. The benefit of such a large store is also that they carry the best selection of sizes and colours, many of which you never see anywhere else.
There isn't really much that you can't buy in Selfridge's and the other departments offer many of the positives mentioned already for the clothing. The perfume counter seems to go on forever and walking through is simply an enormous assault on the senses. I've never seen a range of kitchen-ware like the one they have in Selfridge's, catering for traditional tastes right through to ultra-modern contemporary. They also carry enormous seasonal ranges so if, for example, you’re after some funky picnic-ware, at this time of year, they'll have loads. Moving into the autumn, unusual pieces for Christmas will start to appear – and their range of Christmas decorations is absolutely second to none. The furniture concessions often offer better delivery times than individual stores (BoConcept, for example, quote delivery times of 6-8 weeks on their stuff, but if you go to the BoConcept concession in Selfridge's, you get a time of 1-2 weeks. Work that one out!)
The food hall is not what it should be. For a start, it's quite small and cramped and occupies one of the less appealing parts of the building. It's noisy and generally very busy and the range is nowhere near as good as somewhere like Harrods. Product-wose, they stock a good range of high end stuff, but there's not the focus on organic or local goods that you might expect. In terms of places to eat and drink, the selection is again not a patch on Harrods, with "Yo Sushi!" probably the most popular and most appetising. There are, however, some nice fresh food counters, particularly cakes and deli goods that you go down particularly well at lunch time.
As you would probably expect for a top end London store, prices in Selfridge's are high. The most influential factor here is that the goods are generally from top end designers and top end quality so you’d expect to pay a lot more than you would in a high street store. However, many items that are sold elsewhere are like for like more expensive, often by as much as 20%, which can be off-putting. When Selfridge's has a sale, it's a real sale though, with savings of more than 50% not uncommon. The refund policy is, however very good, with a complete refund offered on unwanted goods (provided they are as new) as well as the obvious refund on faulty goods. I've refunded many things, many times, without issue. (Pay attention to the terms and conditions on sale goods, which can differ).
Service-wise, Selfridge's always impresses me. The security staff members actually smile at you, and don’t mind offering directions / advice. As previously stated, staff process refunds easily and (generally) without quibble and generally seem pretty happy to help. I've left queries with some staff members, who have always come back to me a few days later, either with the information I requested, or at least to apologise for being unable to find out. Arguably, for shoppers who call into the store, the experience is different, as I've tried this and it seems impossible to find anyone who knows what you want.) Generally, however, the service compares very favourably with rival Harvey Nichols, where the staff members are all obnoxious and the service standards way below what you would expect.
The range of personal services is massive too. You can get your nipple pierced, arrange catering for that special dinner, have your jeans custom-made, set up your wedding list, exchange foreign currency, get something engraved, have a makeover and so on and so forth. You name it, they do it - for a price. They're open from 09:30 to 21:00 Monday to Saturday and from 11:30 to 18::00 on a Sunday - how cool is that?
For me, Selfridge's is at its most appealing in the run up to Christmas, with dark evenings and an abundance of lights and glitter adding a magical element to everything. But for me, the store is endlessly appealing all year round and more of a day out than a shopping experience. For those on a tight budget, Selfridge's would be very unwelcome, but if you're looking to treat yourself, you'll never stop finding inspiration here.
Summary: The best shop in the world