Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Mr. Selfridges

I was quite taken with the show The Paradise, which led to the natural recommendation that I watch Mr Selfridge.
The 2013 Masterpiece Theater drama is based on the high end department stores, Selfridges, in London that was opened by an American (played by Jeremy Piven) in 1909.

Originally planned to release in 2012,  ITV pushed back airing for a year because rival BBC began airing The Paradise that same year, and the dramas were too similarly themed.

Both shows are fascinating from a retail marketing perspective — and enthralling in terms of a time period perspective. Mr. Selfridge is based on historical events and stays somewhat true to the store's participation in key events of the time. We see Louis Blériot's monoplane on display from his 1909 cross channel flight, the woman's suffrage march in front of the store, employees enlisting for war, and the women starting a gun club. There's also significant emphasis in the show on creating window displays —the store is still known for their innovative windows today.
In contrast, The Paradise is pure fiction, but I am inclined to draw the conclusion the Moray character is loosely based on Selfridge. He's an energetic, visionary that knows how to sell, sell, sell... and women love him. He has a knack for making every day at the store a major event, moments that London society just must be a part of.

Both shows also have a strong female lead of a soft-spoken shop girl (who gets hired in the first episode based on her ability to sell) who happens to take naturally to marketing and merchandising. And who also ends up in her own romantic entanglements.
As a viewer, I prefer The Paradise, because I found it to be more about the strategy in running a store rather than the affairs and dealings of the rich (or privileged) women in Selfridge's life. The colors of the store and elaborate costumes are intoxicating, and there's something nostalgic about the pre-"off-the-shelf" shopping experience. 

Since window displays and point-of-purchase units are a part of my day-to-day, I'm fascinated by how the world of merchandising and brand placement has transformed the shopping experience. I find that aspect of both of these shows intriguing. I look forward to someday visiting the original Selfridge's in London and seeing how their methods have changed to keep them relevant and thriving.  

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