LONDON — Selfridges is subtly reinventing itself yet again, tweaking its offerings and layout to appeal to customers' evolving tastes.
The store has invested $20 million in a new project called the Wonder Room, a luxury lifestyle emporium that will offer merchandise such as cult toys, cigars, mobile phones, jewelry and wine. The space, which spans about 20,000 square feet on the ground floor, will open at the end of August. It will take over what is currently the men's accessories area.
"It will be filled with wondrous gifts," said the store's creative director Alannah Weston. "There will be items on sale from 8 pounds, or $16, to 8,000 pounds, $16,000 — wine and diamond necklaces, books and Birkin bags. But it's not going to be like a museum. I want it to be accessible and to keep that Selfridges energy."
The room will also showcase its namesake, the Wunderkammer: The walls will be lined with cabinets of curiosities, artifacts, ephemera, and even art projects.
Weston said the concept of the Wonder Room is playing into a new retail model that has emerged over the past few years.
"The retail pyramid has become a figure eight. It used to be good at the bottom of the pyramid, better and then best at the top. What we've found, though, is that the luxury end — and the accessible products — are doing well. People are buying Chanel — and Primark," she said, referring to the mass market British retailer.
Since the mid-Nineties, when Vittorio Radice took over the store management, Selfridges has been a retail pioneer, known for tapping into consumers' emotions and getting them wrapped up in the retail experience.
Radice turned the ground floor of Selfridges into a luxury marketplace, with shop-in-shops for brands such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and Dior arranged around a central "courtyard" where items are displayed as casually as fruits and vegetables at a traditional street vendor.
Radice also introduced major, in-store themed events — Bollywood, Tokyo Life, Bodycraze and Brazil 40 degrees. The events featured specialty food, entertainment, merchandise, and showcased new design talent.
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