The Business of Christmas

Christmas Decorations - Inside Burswood Casino Foyer.jpg

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. ....