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Is Selfridges top of the shops?

25 Jun 2010


Not according to the UK’s biggest high street survey published last month, which revealed that kitchenware store Lakeland and home entertainment retailer Richer Sounds ranked top of the shops in consumer opinion. The Which? high streets shops

 survey ranks 100 high street brands according to the satisfaction of their customers. It draws on the shopping experiences of more than 14,000 customers and is regarded as the biggest survey of its kind in the UK.

Lakeland and Richer Sounds, which both have fewer than 50 branches across the UK, scored top marks for customer service. Richer Sounds was the only shop in the Which? league table to score five stars out of five for both price and customer service, while Lakeland was praised for innovative products and a great aftersales service.

While John Lewis, the only department store to make the top 10, came fifth overall, the notable absence on the list was department chain Selfridges who were busy collecting the award for Department Store of the Year at the 2nd inaugural Global Department Store Summit in New York.

The UK-based chain beat off stiff competition from the likes of Bloomingdales in the US and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong to win the coveted title.

Founded in 1906 by retail tycoon Harry Gordon Selfridge, Selfridges was bought by its current chairman, Galen Weston, in 2003. Weston, who is also chairman of Wittington Investments (one of the premier luxury retail groups in Europe and Canada), and his wife Hilary are closely involved with the development and growth of the company. Their daughter Alannah is creative director of the chain.

Paul Kelly became chief executive of Selfridges in February 2004, after ten years as managing director of Brown Thomas in Dublin. He has worked with the Weston family for over 20 years and is widely credited with raising the chain's profits. Kelly, accepting the award on the company’s behalf, gushed: “We are delighted to have won this very special award and very proud of our teams who have all contributed in making this happen."

He continued: "This is very much in recognition of their hard work. This centenary-old brand built on the most extraordinary heritage, confirms that Selfridges is the most relevant and exciting department store today."

Saks Fifth Avenue scooped the title two years ago, which makes the department store only the second to be awarded this retail accolade.

Selfridges’ sales rose by 6 per cent to £809 million and profit grew by 8 per cent to £88.1 million in the year ended 31 January 2009, but it was strong financial results along with the strength of their brand, innovation, in-store experience, customer service and outlook for 2010 that earned them the award.

According to the Intercontinental Group of Department Stores (IGDS) and the International Association of Department Stores: “The four store chain earned record profits in excess of £100 million, during a challenging time for many in the department store industry. Mr Kelly discussed recent initiatives at Selfridges, such as a multi-million pound investment in their online business, a commitment to create the largest shoe department in the world this fall, and refurbishing their Manchester store.  Without a doubt, Selfridges’ commitment to providing unparalleled product selection in an engaging store environment, supported by one of a kind events, keeps their shoppers and the industry clamoring for more. Mr Kelly concluded his speech with an important and timeless message from Selfridges’ founder, Harry Gordon Selfridges, who counseled ‘if you can do a good job in tough times you’ll do a great job in good times.’ Apparently, Selfridges has found the way to do a great job at ALL times.”

The launch of Selfridges.com saw thousands of the store’s products take to the web carrying more than 500 brands from designer labels through to high-street names and reaching a demographic beyond its London, Birmingham and Manchester-based stores.

The IGDS is the largest association of department stores in the world and from an international perspective, Selfridges is a world class performer, innovator and the world’s leading department store. An opinion poll in the UK might beg to differ but the global retail industry has spoken.