It’s always confounded me that there’s no white goods department at Selfridge’s. You can buy a diamond encrusted tiara or a brand new pair of dungarees, but they don’t sell fridges… But what Selfridge’s do sell, it turns out, is shops. Or one specific shop. And they want four billion pounds for it.

Selfridge’s is for sale. The shop’s billionaire owners have decided to cash up and cash out and if you’ve got deep enough pockets you could be your very own owner of a multi-storey department store on Oxford Street. Which hasn’t been a particularly popular job lately, given closures of the neighbouring BHS, Debenhams and House of Fraser. But nevertheless owners of the shop, and star character in ITV drama Mr Selfridge, think that now is exactly the time for someone (who isn’t them) to get into retail.

And they may actually be right. In a world of department store woe, with even John Lewis suspending bonuses for the first time in ever, Selfridge’s has managed to come out relatively unscathed.

Despite spending much of the last year forced to close, it appears to have returned with a bang...

The store has seen profitability soar over the last decade, though the pandemic has seen them cut their staff by 450 (14% of total employees) in what it described as its ‘toughest year’.

However, despite spending much of the last year forced to close, it appears to have returned with a bang.

The billionaire Weston family are the current owners, but they’ve let on that they’ve been in talks with a mystery buyer. And the tactic appears to have worked because now there are multiple mystery buyers circling with bankers Credit Suisse drumming up support.

The family are set to make a tidy profit, having bought the department store in 2003 for £598 million...

The family are set to make a tidy profit, having bought the department store in 2003 for £598 million. Since then they’ve added further stores, two in Manchester and one in Birmingham.

All that’s needed is a buyer. And reports are that the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar are all circling, along with Hong Kong’s Lane Crawford. Selfridge’s Riyadh, anyone?

Which all suggests there are big changes afoot, whoever buys the store and likely the end of British ownership. The Qataris already own Harrods, and have fought to bring the store back into the mainstream after Mohammed Al Fayad’s turbulent tenure, it has to be said with impressive results.

 

There are big changes afoot, whoever buys the store...

However it does remain to be seen how the next phase of transition back to normality fares for stores like Selfridge’s. Oxford Street is already expecting a heavily reduced footfall for the rest of the year and there are fears that behaviour may have changed for good, with the pandemic merely cementing what was already happening.

Westminster Council have acknowledged the problem by building a much-mocked comedy hill a short walk from Selfridge’s. Let’s hope that Selfridge’s is a better investment…


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