Skip to content

Harry-Gordon-Selfridge.jpgWilliam Henry Vokins, like Harry Selfridge was a merchant, not an accountant. His philosiphy was to make sure there was plenty of stock to satisfy the customers. However, where Selfridge appears to be slightly cavalier and wreckless, WHV adopted a more cautious approach.

We see Mr Crab, Selfridge’s book keeper / accountant worrying about the profitability of the business as he continues his quest for profile for his business with evermore extravagance.

As with any new business, the first few months can prove challenging and it is evident that Mr Selfridge (pictured) is inwardly concerned at the lack of customers in his magnificent store, even though he puts on a brave facade for his staff.

Securing the plane used by Monsieur Bleriot, the first ever airplane to cross the Channel, to display in the store seems to be a stroke of genius as the exhibition draws in a huge number of potential customers.

Vokins Interior c1920Vokins have never had anything quite so grand on display to draw the customers, but in my time working for the family, which started in 1974 with a school holiday job, I can remember having a Mini in the window. We also had an outside broadcast (by what was then Southern Sound radio station) from our window. My favourite going back 30 + years was having a model sit in a chest style deep freeze, with nothing but a Slumberdown goose down duvet to keep her warm.

I have to say all the promotions worked very well, but the combination of pretty girl and goose down duvets was the most original.

In Episode 3 we see evidence of Harry’s womanising. I couldn’t possible comment on whether my Great Grandfather had extra marital liaisons. However times were very different then and wives appeared to be very much more tolerant. Goodness knows why?

Mr Selfridge’s introduction of a perfumery and cosmetics department to the front of the store and relocation of lady’s accessories to be with the perfumery is something that is still practised today. When Vokins introduced the perfumery department into our store in North Street, Brighton, it was positioned at the very front of the store.

The picture above shows the interior of one of the Vokins fashion halls taken sometime before 1925.