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Brief Published: 11 Jun 2013

Retail Activism Returns to Selfridges, London


Cementing its position as a brand that takes a stand on pertinent issues beyond retail, British department store Selfridges is mounting a storewide campaign to raise awareness of the plight of sharks. The campaign is part of its Project Ocean initiative, which highlights the effects of over-fishing and is now in its third year.

Launched to coincide with World Oceans Day (8 June), shark-themed windows, exhibitions, videos and 3D installations appear across the London flagship in a bid to change the public’s perception of sharks and draw attention to ocean-based conservation issues in general.  

Setting the scene in its ground floor pop-up concept space, blue billboards are emblazoned with little-known facts about the species – such as the fact that each year, more people are killed by saunas and champagne corks than by sharks.

The retailer has also cleared its beauty department of all shark by-products (squalene extracted from shark-liver oil is an ingredient in some cosmetics) and is offering limited edition marine-themed products, such as French beauty brand Creme De La Mer’s World Ocean's Day moisturising cream. Graphics in its food halls, detailed lists on its website and branded Fish Guides all promote buying sustainable fish – signposting which varieties to avoid and to eat.

In its substantial capacity as a promotional medium (more than 20 million people visit the store annually), it’s also backing plans by The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and The Shark Trust for a new concept in marine conservation, called Shark Parks. These will be designated areas of ocean around the world focusing on public engagement and scientific research into sharks.

Selfridges’ shark campaign is the latest example of brands going beyond their role as vendors to highlight burning social or environmental issues. Positive Provenance shows how other brands are catering to consumers’ growing concerns about the origin and ethics of the products they buy.

For more on Selfridges’ ongoing marine campaign, see Project Ocean: Retail Activism in Action, while buying and merchandising director Sebastian Manes discusses wider store strategy – particularly using high-level creativity to fuel commerce – in The Selfridges Effect.