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Ex-Selfridges chief Tim Daniels dies

Former Selfridges boss Tim Daniels died of pneumonia on Monday 16 April.

Daniels spent nine years as managing director of Selfridges before he retired in April 1996.

He joined Selfridges in 1981 as its merchandise director. He promoted to deputy managing director of the department store in 1986, and was named as managing director – effectively taking on CEO responsibilities – after Eric Greenhalgh resigned in 1987.

Daniels began his retail career at Littlewoods before joining Croydon department store Allders as merchandise director, where he worked for ten years until taking up his role at Selfridges.

Under Daniels’ leadership, the Selfridges’ Oxford Street flagship kicked off a colossal refurbishment in the early ‘90s, widely regarded as the crucial first steps to the retailer’s renaissance during the decade. The first phase of it opened in 1993.

His team at the time included Boohoo chairman Peter Williams, who held the role of chief financial officer from 1991 to 2002 at the department store in what was his first board appointment.

Williams told Drapers: “Tim really deserves the credit for the initial creation of the master plan to rejuvenate the Oxford Street store. As a testament to department store retailing, he helped to create a wonderful thing.”

Williams reminisced that in the late 80s to early 90s, Selfridges suffered from a lack of investment from its then-owner Sears, resulting in a “complete mess” inside the store despite its impressive building and location.

He likened its “dowdy” interior to that of Grace Brothers, a fictional retail chain depicted in TV programme Are You Being Served?, adding that there was no air conditioning and a sub-par escalator system. As a result, Selfridges failed to attract suppliers du jour such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

“Tim had a plan for years where he wanted to completely rejuvenate the inside of the store, open it up and make it more accessible as it is nowadays, and on the back of that, would be able to present the business in a more favourable light,” recalled Williams.

After drawing up a £45m budget for the refurbishment, which Sears shot down, Daniels and his team persuaded Sears to renovate only the east end of the building with a £12m investment.

“The results from that area where we put new escalators in was so fantastic, we went on to redo the rest of it. One of the great achievements he made for Selfridges was starting the whole refurbishment.”

After Daniels retired he dabbled in consultancy, living in France and later Spain.

Williams said: “He was a lovely, lovely guy. I’ve [encountered] a number of different managing directors and CEOs and sadly, in retail, bullying everybody is the modus operandi for some of them; but Tim was somebody who got everyone on side. He was a great people person.

“He was a very modest man and didn’t look to the limelight. He was always really passionate about the business and was very inclusive towards everyone – he was passionate about customer service, and because of it, he was passionate about the people that delivered it.”

David Elliott, who is business development director at department store Voisins, also formed part of Daniels’ team when he joined Selfridges in 1988 as merchandise director.

Elliott said: “We are feeling very sad over the loss of Tim. He was not only one of the very best retailers I worked for but a thoroughly nice person too.

“Tim Daniels, with his vision and ability to gather a strong supportive team, was the person who got the modernisation of the store under way.

“He had the foresight and vision to encourage Sears, who in those days owned Selfridges, to invest in a masterplan to modernise the business and effectively create the very strong basis for the wonderful store you see today.”

Outside of retail, Williams described him as a “bit of a bon viveur”. “He liked his food and his wine; he was also very well read,” he said.

“Selfridges was the largest independent bookshop in London at that time, so we’d have a host of well-known people come in to do book signings; reading was a great passion of his.”

Daniels is survived by his son, David.


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