Thursday, June 23, 2005

Retail Review

A couple of days ago, I read an interesting article in The Age which reviewed three new Melbourne shopping precincts: the GPO, QV and the revamped Melbourne Central. It was all the more interesting because shops don't really get reviewed in the general press like fashion shows, art installations, theatre or even architecture, although I would argue that retail combines elements of all these. Jonathan Green's piece nicely evokes the way shopping centres are designed to move shoppers through space, to generate affective responses that will stimulate purchases, and to mirror the CBD's older, laneway-based retail environment. Here he is, for example, on Melbourne Central:
The spaces are enclosed and intimate, a warren of laneways, lofts and balconied atriums spreading in a fair replica of organic old-city chaos from the cleared central circle that surrounds the cone-topped atrium and the brick battlements of the Coop shot factory tower.

Somewhere around here, we'll find no fewer than nine mobile phone retailers, 32 female fashion specialists, 12 for men and everything in between all set in a crazy, vibrant clutter that screams pace, pace, pace. The signage seizes you at the Lonsdale Street entrance — "Scooter", "Grab", "Sushi Sushi" — and propels you deeper into the increasingly complex innards through a bombardment of sound as well as scent and vision, each shop pumping out its own particular notion of aural ambience at volume.


Onwards ever onwards. There are multiple entry points, from Elizabeth Street through a fragrant series of sidewalk eateries; from Latrobe, Swanston and, of course, from below, through the centre's own proprietary branded station on the City Loop. The redevelopment has closed in formerly open spaces and redrawn the massive footprint to enclose laneways that ape the intricate retail lacework of Flinders Lane and Little Collins Street.

For the last few months, I've been wanting to take Footpath Zeitgeist "live" by actually photographing street style in Melbourne rather than relying on other people's photos. I've been holding out for a decent digital camera and the money to buy it with. Suddenly becoming a full-time freelancer hasn't helped matters.

But one of the things I plan to do when I get my camera is institute a regular review of retail store merchandising and promotion. The Retail Review section will analyse store window and retail interior design using aesthetic, trend-based and more general cultural criteria. I will also critically review catalogues, particularly hybrid "magalogues" like Furst Publishing's STU, which is a General Pants house magazine.

I think that much of the time, these things are seen as peripheral promotional devices, and as such they're not worth reviewing. But they perform a crucial mediating role between a retail store and the people on the street. Street style can be influenced by a window display or a smart catalogue, even if people can't afford or would never buy the clothes in the store.


elaine said...

cheapskates alternative to a digital camera - you could get a phone with a camera, some of them are ok nowadays, and if the pics aren't going to be blown up then the resolution should be fine.

Also, in haute news. I was flicking through a canadian vogue or a harpers (stolen from my sister) and noted that Karl Largerfeld has jumped onto the Jaunty pussy bandwagon.

Mel said...

That's one for the books! ;-)

I actually want to get a decent camera so the pictures can be reproduced elsewhere.