As I watch the extraordinary United Kingdom ITV series “Mr. Selfridge” on PBS, I have to reflect on my department store experiences in London. I’m not sure whether I went into Selfridge’s, but I went into a department store in the posh Kensington section of London and bought a British-style hat. I bought the hat so I would blend in with the folks on the sidewalks. It didn’t work. No one else was wearing a hat like that. Everybody was wearing baseball-style caps just like the ones in the good old USA.
I definitely visited Harrod’s and Fortnum Mason. Both lived up to their reputations. They were shows within themselves. Harrod’s is huge, the largest department store in Europe and has extraordinary merchandize displays. Selfridge’s is the second largest in the U.K. Fortnum Mason is not all that big, has only a few departments, but is luxurious and patronized by the Royal family. Queen Elizabeth has visited the store herself. It is also famous for its many restaurants and its high tea service.
Visiting those stores helped me understand why a department store could be a tourist attraction. Harry Selfridge, the American who founded Selfridge’s in 1909, said that he wanted his store to be a shopping adventure. That’s what you get in the world-famous department stores in London.