For Vittorio Radice, the department store is a religious experience, one that is all about a special place filled with special brands. The chief executive of London-based Selfridges mesmerized the crowd at the CEO Summit with his take on the viability of these "cathedrals of consumption."

Ever since retail commerce sprung up in the 11th century, stores have "played a very important role in society and modern culture," he said, whether it be Isfahan in Persia or Red Square in Moscow. The modern department store had its beginnings in the mid-1800s in Paris when Le Bon Marche opened its doors.

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