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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Retail Giant


Today is the birthday of the Wisconsin boy who invented modern department stores.

Ripon native Gordon Selfridge worked his way up through Marshall Fields and took his midwest American optimism into the very heart of the staid British Empire. In 1909 he opened his own department store on London's Oxford Street, where he was one of the first retailers to appreciate the psychology of shopping. Selfridge covered his store's floors with comfortable carpets and welcomed browsers who bought nothing but just wanted to "make a day of it" (as he phrased it in his advertising). He was also among the first to realize that women were the principal consumers in most households, and so emphasized cosmetics, beauty products, and carefully crafted window displays meant to appeal to them.

Toward the end of his career, he returned home for an honorary degree from Ripon College. Read about other successful Wisconsin entrepreneurs in our online collection of 16,000 Local History & Biography Articles.


:: Posted in Odd Lives on March 15, 2005

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