David Jones Spring Interior. Elizabeth St. Sydney.Read More
You want to do ...what?
This was the reaction of senior management when, many moons ago, I presented my concept for a fashion parade at a major ‘centre in Perth’s southern suburbs. In the end they gave me my head and let me run amok with their shopping centre. We blacked out all of the skylights so we could use full theatre lighting. We installed a major sound system that surrounded the audience and we turned on a major theatrical event!
Every single show was standing room only.
The sales of all participating stores spiked; even the music store that assisted with the soundtrack saw sales jump by 10%. It was the most successful in-house event they had ever staged.
This is what the ‘Centre of the Future’ needs to be equipped to do.
Here we go again.
Time and again over the years I have witnessed the major expansion cycle of Perth’s retail centres. We are at the beginning of another such cycle now.
As we continue to follow the U.S. trend of the Mega Mall, suburban retail centres are becoming town centres; mini C.B.D’s in their own right. And, as the battle to keep shoppers in the centres for longer - and to make repeat visits - is waged, we see the inclusion of apartments, more leisure facilities & after hours businesses.
But some things never change
Over the past three decades – in each of the expansion cycles, I have seen the same thing happen:
Just as the construction phase was being completed – or sometimes well after – the new Marketing Department would begin to think about Christmas and other promotions.
Then they would call me in. My first consideration would always be – where is the infrastructure? Where are the hooks, the power supplies etc?
Usually there was none, or it was inadequate/in the wrong place etc.
Lack of forethought as to the infrastructure for merchandising, events etc is a costly oversight that I have seen happen again and again.
Not only does the infrastructure then have to be retrofitted but the cost & logistics to retrofit major infrastructure – of the type that could have a significant bearing on the cost of future undertakings - would by then be totally prohibitive.
Without appropriate infrastructure, the ongoing costs for say, the installation of Christmas, is significantly inflated for years to come.
The ability for a ‘Centre to be truly dynamic; to actually perform as a vibrant town centre into the future is what will give it the edge. The ‘Centre of the future will need to be able to handle major events, multiple events – inside and out.
And ‘events’ into the future may not all be as we conceive them now: just look at Pokémon!
The ‘Centre of the Future’ needs to be equipped for anything!
It will need to be a performance space, a merchandising smorgasbord – with all the latest tech. In addition being a retail centre it is a meeting space, an exhibition space, an entertainment space. It needs to be FLEXIBLE and efficient.
BUT, if cherry pickers & scaffold have to be used to stage these things, they become cost and time prohibitive.
More time to shop, BUT..
Now we have extended trading hours in Perth & further deregulation is likely. This puts further pressure on the turnaround time for the installation and removal of merchandising, event equipment etc. Again, advance planning, the right equipment & infrastructure will make these processes significantly more time & cost efficient.
Imagine if, instead of your Christmas suppliers having to hire cherry pickers to access the top of you centre void, they could just press a button to lower an electric hoist.
Imagine those same hoists could lift lighting rigs, sound equipment, screens & more.
Imagine if the performance spaces in your Centre were so well designed as performance & merchandising spaces – that acoustic baffles were built into the architecture; that 3-phase power was readily available; that skylights could be blacked out at the push of a button.
Leading the charge
Westfield recently contracted film & television producer Scott Sanders as Creative Head of Global Entertainment.
Westfield co-chief executive Peter Lowy said “entertainment and innovative experiences are an increasingly important part of the overall attraction of Westfield centres, especially those flagship centres in the world’s leading cities”. (see link below)
There is a fundamental shift underway in the understanding of just what the retail centre of the next generation should be doing.
More to follow ......
Related Article 23-09-16:
BOO Creative (my company) was the driving force in visual merchandising – including Christmas - in Perth for almost 30 years.
Everyone was doing it!
As a child I remember being taken into the city to “see the lights” of Christmas. I remember the enchantment of the animated Christmas windows at Boans Department store.
We drove the family car into the city, parked then got out and walked the streets of Perth. As a family. Imagine that!
Imagine that entire families would not only choose the central city as their preferred destination for such activity, but that they would actually get out of their cars to take in the wonder of it all!
Apparently it was a ‘thing’ in those days; everyone was doing it!
Now families are still heading out to see the lights, they’re just not heading to the C.B.D. They’re heading to the suburbs, to see what other families are doing in their front yards.
A lamentable truth
It’s become a lamentable truth that often what they will see in the ‘burbs is a whole lot better than what they would see if they did venture into the heart of our beautiful city.
Now, it easy to blame ‘them’; you know, the mythical ‘they’ who are responsible for all the ills of society. It’s always them.
It’s the government! It’s the ‘council!
Sure, the Christmas decoration programme in the C.B.D. does seem to have lost its way in recent years. But can we sheet all of the blame at the feet of government?
Last Christmas I took myself into the C.B.D. to see the decorations for myself. There were major intersections and vistas down central thoroughfares where there were no decorations visible at all. Nothing to draw you in.
Were you to drive the streets of the C.B.D. there was certainly nothing to inspire you to get out of your car and take a wander.
There were other areas where the lack of a cohesive design scheme & poor execution practices made me wish there were perhaps less decorations, to ease the visual clutter.
The hive mentality
But even if the City did have a beautiful decoration scheme in place, would that by itself entice families to get out of their cars? Perhaps, but would it be enough to have a positive impact on trade?
Yes, the centre of our state capital should be decorated in a style of which we can all be proud and that will draw people in. But for any decoration scheme to have a positive financial impact for the businesses within the C.B.D. we need people to get out of their cars and walk the streets.
For that to happen, we need the participation of ALL stakeholders.
When I did my tour of the streets last year I was not surprised at the lack of decorations in the streets, or even the poor standard. I’d been hearing about that for years. I hadn’t been in to see them before because, well, who does that these days?
What did surprise me was the almost total lack of participation from the retailers, hotels etc throughout. I saw businesses at all levels, including major national chains, without so much as a stick of tinsel or a fairy light anywhere.
Having said that, some credit must go to many of the major tenants in the heart of the ‘Terrace business district. While the ‘spend’ in most other areas has been on the decline, the participation of the corporate sector on the ‘Terrace seems to have defied the trend.
We have been hearing about the battle for foot traffic in the C.B.D. almost since the first suburban shopping centre opened its doors (in Floreat in 1965). Now, with the latest round of major expansions of the retail giants out in the suburbs, that battle is being taken to new levels.
To compete, the ‘City will need to develop a ‘hive mentality’: the recognition that everyone is a part of it and for it to work, everyone will need to do their bit.
Yes, a well designed, high quality decoration scheme is needed that will embrace the city from Northbridge right down to Elizabeth Quay; from City West to City East.
Crucially, any new scheme will also need to inspire participation of all of the stakeholders. From decorating their own businesses to sponsoring decoration schemes.
But more on that later. ....