Do Times Change? Cardiff Market

My fascination with markets is pretty well known and has been rolled out in posts in this blog on a regular basis.  One of the markets that has featured has been Cardiff Market; somewhere I have been visiting for over 50 years.

During that half-century or so I have often marvelled at, and purchased from Ashtons, the fishmongers at one of the entrances.  It really is a magnificent sight not only for its display and the volume of customers it attracts, but also for its sense of history and style.  The photos below don’t do it justice, but give a small flavour (their website has a short video on the current business and their ethos)

ashtons 2Ashtons 1

Cardiff Market remains for me a fascinating and evocative place.  Some of the stalls seem unchanging – both food and non-food – even though the product may have altered over time.  The quality (and price) of the food remains a major attraction.  New additions – spices and sweets – add variety, and the cafes, cake stalls provide a wide range and service.

Some of my first memories are of the lesser explored upper balcony, where my father took me when he bought medals and trophies for basketball competitions he ran.  At that time there was also the café (Faggots and Peas) and the pet stalls.  Both remain but the latter much reduced. Many of the upper stalls have declined and closed (though Kelly’s Records is going strong and worth exploring).

Visiting the upper floor again the other week I came across a display on the history of the market.  It mentions the origins of the current market from 1835 (and the need for it to replace the pre-cursor markets as the City grew) and has some interesting photos and comments.

Market Letter 1835

What really caught my eye though was the pieces on Ashton’s and their claimed status ina letter form 1930 of being in their place in the market from 1866 (though Ashton’s website mentions being in the market since 1890, which probably refers to the current structure).  Does this make them the longest running market stall in the UK?

1930 Letter

Their letter to the Market authorities from 1930 noted amongst other things that:

  • Trade is currently much reduced (this was in the Recession)
  • In such circumstances increased costs were harassing beleaguered shopkeepers (plus ca change?)
  • Their rent was to be increased by 22% per week!
  • Tenancy could be terminated on 7 days notice (wow).

Ashtons case as laid out in their letter (and one hopes/assumes they got relief) was that vital, long-standing, investing and employing businesses should not be penalised in such ways.  The ‘deal’ does seem a little outrageous, though the circumstances seem very familiar today.

If you are in Cardiff, go to the market and spend your money there.  If you want fish or poultry (and top-class it is) seek out Ashton’s.

Ashtons Photo with letterAshton Postcard

Posted in Cardiff, Consumers, Corporate History, Costs, Fish, Food, Food Retailing, Historic Shops, History, Local Retailers, Markets, Rates, Regulation, Rents, Retail Change, Retail History, Urban History, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trends in Retailing and Leisure in Scotland’s Towns and Cities

In late November a good audience gathered before breakfast in Glasgow for the Local Data Company/University of Stirling 5th Scottish Retail Summit, and heard presentations and discussions about trends in Scottish retailing and town centres. The infographic at the end of this blog provides some headlines and my introduction and commentary will be made available on this blog in the New Year.

In the meantime however, the chair of the morning, Jane Bradley from the Scotsman, and Matthew Hopkinson from the Local Data Company have authored short immediate commentaries. The originals can be found on the Local Data Company website (see links below), but are reproduced here as well:

Jane Bradley writes:

“It is something which many retailers would find it hard to face up to.

“We just have too many shops,” property consultant Graham Seaton told delegates at the 5th LDC Scottish Retail and Leisure Trends summit. And it seems he is right. The LDC report showed, for the first time in five years, a slight increase in vacancy rates on high streets in Scottish towns, while units previously occupied by Booze, Money and Gambling (BMG) firms, are being vacated at a rate of knots.

Seaton, who is in charge of property at the Ann Summers chain, echoed the thoughts of fellow panellist Caitriona McAuley, head of economic growth at North Ayrshire Council, who pointed to data which showed an increase in leisure and services businesses which could rejuvenate Scottish town centres. Since the Malcolm Fraser report four years ago, councils have been tasked with tackling not only economic regeneration, but to bring community life back to Scotland’s towns in a bid to stamp out social isolation and loneliness.

Jim Harper, regional business manager of Scotmid Co-operative, the third panellist presenting to the summit, held at KPMGs offices in Glasgow, argued that there was not “too many” shops, but just the “wrong kinds” of shops, saying that the convenience store market was continuing to grow.

The rise of charity shops is also slowing, the report showed. In fact, Leigh Sparks, professor of Retail Studies at Stirling University, who co-authored the report, begged the question as to whether we are at “peak charity”? Once lumped in with the “Booze, Money and Gambling” collective, LDC’s decision to separate out the sector was borne out of the theory that people did not necessarily regard them as a bad thing. People in Edinburgh, especially, it seems – where there are more charity shops than in Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow combined, comprising 51 per cent of Scotland’s charity shop stock.

Legislative changes, such as the Financial Conduct Authority’s crackdown a few years ago on payday lenders, are starting to filter through onto the high street, the study found, with some payday loan premises opting to leave as leases come to an end. Cambuslang has the highest “BMG” score of all towns and cities in Scotland, with 16.1 per cent of its retail stock falling into this category. Meanwhile, Kirkwall, Callendar, Bearsden, Grantown-on-Spey and Ullapool all have no retail premises occupied by businesses which fall into this category.

No retail report would be complete without mentioning the rise of the internet, especially pertinent in a week when, while Black Friday sales continued to rise, footfall was not as buoyant, suggesting that many people had opted to do their Christmas shopping online.

Discussion of Amazon’s foray into the grocery market with the acquisition of Whole Foods prompted the insistence from Harper that he could see a time when “people will have their shopping delivered into their back gardens by drones”, but that the retail sector would adapt and that people would always want to shop, at least for food, in physical stores.”

Matthew Hopkinson writes:

“On November 28th, was the Local Data Company’s (LDC) fifth Scottish Retail and Leisure Trends Summit held in partnership with the University of Stirling. The report revealed interesting insights as to how Scottish centres are performing relative to England and Wales but also relative to each other. There was also a short presentation by Chris Fowler of LDC on how data is being captured and used at a local level to understand performance and opportunity with a case study from Aberdeenshire Council on the town of Peterhead.

The report findings were presented by Professor Leigh Sparks of the Centre for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling off the back of which there was an excellent panel discussion (see panellists above) as well as questions from the audience. The key findings can be summarised as follows;

  • The Scottish retail and leisure vacancy rate is currently 11.9%, a +0.2% increase on the rate in 2016 – this is the first year-on-year increase in Scottish town centre vacancy in five years.
  • Overall retail vacancy in cities and towns now averages 12.3%, down from 12.6% in 2016 and has reduced significantly since 2013 when rates were 13.4%.
  • Glasgow and Edinburgh continue to dominate the retail scene in Scotland accounting for 15.7 % of all retail premises.

figure-3.jpg

Figure 1. Number of retail premises across Scottish cities in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (Source: LDC)

  • Scottish towns and cities have seen a fall in retail vacancy but a rise in leisure vacancy.
  • Retail park vacancy has decreased from 7.8% in 2016 to 6.7% in 2017 although this remains the highest retail park vacancy rate across GB.
  • Shopping centre vacancy rates have also improved from 16.9% to 15.1% – the largest reduction in shopping centre vacancy across GB – which can potentially be attributed to modernization of older centers across Scotland, with an increased focus on leisure.
  • Across the sixty six shopping centres measured, 20 have more than a 20% vacancy rate, with the highest being Callendar Square in Falkirk at 64.9%.
  • Edinburgh continues to have the lowest Scottish city vacancy rate of 8.2%.
  • Dundee has the highest level of Scottish city vacancy at 21.7% although this is an improvement on 2016. It also remains the city with the highest persistent vacancy at 9.7%.
  • There has been progress in persistent vacancy overall in 2017 with 11 of 124 towns showing persistent vacancy of over 10% versus 17 towns in 2016.
  • There are 20 Scottish towns with 0% persistent vacancy including St. Andrews, Aviemore, Gretna, Inverurie and Biggar. 
  • Leisure continues to grow in Scotland, accounting for 26.7% of the total retail/leisure premises, an increase from 26.4% on last year.
  • Cities are becoming more leisure orientated at a faster pace than towns.
  • Across both cities and towns, the proportion of independent retailers is increasing whilst the proportion of multiples in decreasing. Independent retail in cities has grown from 54% to 57% since 2013 whilst towns have grown from 53% to 55% over the same period.
  • Edinburgh and Perth are the cities with the highest percentage of independent retail at 69% and 67% respectively.
  • Four towns have over 80% of the retail offer as independent retail; Moffat, Strathaven, Rothesay and Gourock (which had the highest level of independent retail at 84.6%).

figure-31.jpgFigure 2. Top five Scottish towns by the number of Independents as a percentage
of the total units in 2017 (Source: LDC)

  • Convenience shopping has increased across both cities and towns year on year since 2013.
  • The 2017 BMG index highlights that since 2013, all three areas have reduced resulting in the town BMG index dropping from 4.9% in 2016 to 3.8% in 2017; whilst the city index dropped from 3.0% to 1.9% over the same period – an indicator that new legislative control is having a positive impact.

figure-36.jpgFigure 3. Average BMG score for Scottish Towns compared to Scottish cities in 2017 (Source: LDC)

The panel discussion was wide ranging but key themes that I took away included;

  • The costs for retailers keep rising (or the profits keep dropping!) as a result of legislative changes, business rates, government levy’s and minimum wage policies and all of that is before one considers rents.
  • Challenges are on the increase from the uncertainty of Brexit, currency devaluation, more demanding shoppers, less shopper loyalty and consumers being short of time but spoilt for choice.
  • Towns are a critical part of the economy and communities and exist as a ‘place to come together’ as well as being a ‘reflection of the people who live there’. Irvine was cited as an interesting example of a town that has a high street, shopping centre and retail park all sitting next to each other and competing with each other but where the council has a strategy and plan to raise the attractiveness and health of the town.
  • The last five years have seen significant repositioning and restructuring within many towns and cities (but not all) and that physical stores have a key role to play and this is seen by continued openings and refurbishment of space.
  • Retailers have trained the customer to not buy at full price which is creating year- round discounting and heavily impacting profitability.
  • We just have too many shops for modern retailing needs (and continue to build more) so we need to find alternative uses for these buildings that will contribute to the vibrancy of towns.
  • Towns and cities are on different trajectories when it comes to evolution and change.
  • Having a physical store presence is a key driver for online sales and the growth of click & collect illustrates this. Product differentiation by online and offline purchases needs to be recognized when it comes to what you display instore as impossible for many to show their full inventory in a physical space. Use of digital enables you to have smaller stores to assist in inventory display.

Professor Leigh Sparks summarised what the report was saying as follows;

Town centres are always changing and it is vitally important to monitor and understand the dimensions of this change. The data from the local Data Company show that the process of adjustment and change across Scotland’s towns and cities continues but is not uniform.

The headline vacancy figure for towns has risen in the last year but this masks a decline in retail vacancy and a rise in leisure vacancy, the latter for the first time since this series began. We have also seen a decline in the number of charity shops. These two sectors are ones which have expanded rapidly in Scotland in recent years, and the data poses the question whether this year’s changes are a pause in expansion or a reverse?

Within the data there are many examples of towns which have been restructuring and redeveloping and thus a focus on one year’s snapshot vacancy figures are unhelpful. Overall, retail vacancy across Scotland continues to fall.”

My conclusions would be that the report reflects the structural changes that are taking place UK wide.

Whilst town centre vacancy rates have stabilised they have not shown the improvement that shopping centres and retail parks have shown, which for some therein lies the challenge.

As with all of LDC’s data the devil is in the detail as well as understanding the wider context. An example is that whilst Scotland’s shopping centres have more occupied shops that in previous years they still have more empty shopping centre units than England and Wales. Is this as a result of oversupply, underdevelopment or that high streets and retail parks are the core destinations for consumers?

The report also evidences the changes taking place in shop occupation in Scotland, with fewer comparison goods shops and more food & beverage and service (e.g. health & beauty) outlets. The reduction of charity shops is worthy of note, as is the reduction in the number of Booze, Money and Gambling outlets (BMG). This is one that many might not expect, but is something that has been a focus for the country’s politician’s and public health organisations.

The changing nature of places and how they serve the modern consumer is clearly evident in this report. An understanding of these changes and alignment to a plan at each and every town level is key to maintaining the relevance and value of Scotland’s towns. As with evolution it is important to maintain a mind-set of adaptability in such a fast-changing world. There remains an oversupply of traditional shops in Scotland, as elsewhere in the UK, but what is clear is that maintaining a physical connection is something that consumers do and will continue to value and support through physical store visits.

I would like to make a final vote of thanks, as this will be my last Scottish Summit as I move on from LDC at the end of the year, to Leigh Sparks and his colleagues at Stirling (Anne Findlay and Lorraine Ferguson) for working with LDC to create evidence research and insight on Scotland’s towns, cities, shopping centres and retail parks which did not exist previously. By having a foundation of solid data, academic rigour in its analysis and a willingness to share the findings I believe all stakeholders in Scotland’s places can, and will, make better decisions in the future for the good of all. Final thanks is due to KPMG (and especially David McCorquodale) for hosting this event for the last five years in Edinburgh and Glasgow.”

Scottish Infographic Nov 17-08

Posted in Community, Consumer Change, Convenience stores, Data, Food Retailing, High Streets, Institute for Retail Studies, Internet, Local Authorities, Local Data Company, Local Retailers, Places, Policy, Regeneration, Reinvention, Retail Planning, Retailers, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Scotland's Towns Partnership, Scottish Retailing, Secondary Locations, Shopping Centres, Small Towns, Store Closures, Tourism, Town Centre Action Plan, Town Centre Review, Town Centres, Towns, Trends, University of Stirling, Vacancies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy 50th to/from the University of Stirling

Launch Bottles

I’ve mentioned it a couple of times in this blog, but more often on Twitter – 2017/18 is the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the University of Stirling.  Whilst I have not been here since the start (honest), though it sometimes feels like that, I have put in a fair shift.

One of the questions in preparing for the 50th was around how to mark the occasion.  We have, and are doing this in many ways, but the traditional one is by a book.  We last did that for our 25th and I think there is still a room full of spares somewhere.

Bomont Book

The 25th Book

The 50th ‘book’ is thus not traditional in its approach.  It is a book, but it is no history of chronological form.  Instead it is an eclectic collection of 50 objects which together tell a story and give a picture of the University.  It encourages, and is well worth, dipping in to. The student newspaper – the Brig (one of the 50 objects itself) – has a nice piece on the story of this new book.

Fifty Front

My contribution is on the ‘object’ of the Campus Supermarket (hence the bottles in the slide at the start of this post) but takes this as its starting point.  It explores the development of our retail education programmes in South-East Asia and specifically Singapore.  I reproduce it below as it may be of interest to this audience and the picture may help to suggest the format of the book. More helpfully perhaps you can also download the piece here.  Some of you may have your own viewpoints and recollections to add, so please comment here or email in.

Chapter Page 1

Chapter page 2

I know I am biased but the book is well worth a read for anyone with any link to the University, or indeed beyond this.  If you like good photographs I can recommend the book for these too, by the award winning Elaine Livingstone.  Copies can be purchased here (and at a reduced price for alumni).

Leaflet

Posted in Academics, Art, Christmas, Corporate History, Education, Heritage, History, Institute for Retail Studies, Japanese, Retail Degrees, Retail History, Retailing, Singapore, Stirling, University of Stirling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking Tesco (Again)

It has been quite a few weeks for Tesco, currently ending in the positive column.  The recent interim results showed quite a lot of commercial progress and the intended restoration of the dividend cheered the City considerably.  The trials of the recent past have been put behind it in trading terms and performance seems to have stabilised and then improved.  There remains a degree of fragility to this and it is a work-in-progress with strong competition and adverse consumer sentiment winds.  But it is a change from the dark days of the not too recent past.

These dark days have been having some sunshine focused on them in the shape of the trial of former Tesco executives around the rather large accounting hole in the company accounts a few years ago.  It is not clear yet how this will play out (and the trial is ongoing and could be for some time), but some of the statements and actions do not show the company in a positive light.  The extent to which this is individual actions or the culture expected, remains to be seen.  For Tesco it is not a pretty sight, made worse by a case of unfair dismissal being brought by a sacked executive, who was not subsequently prosecuted.

What has been much more to their liking however was the, to many, surprise announcement that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are minded to allow the Tesco acquisition of Booker.  Their provisional findings are that there will be no ‘substantial lessening of competition’ in the UK.  The general surprise when the merger/takeover announcement was made is now matched by their provisional findings.  Representations can still be made, but on the surface and current evidence, the deal will happen (though at least one major shareholder remains against the deal on price grounds).

There has been both a sense of incredulity and inevitability about this.  The incredulity comes from the CMA reasoning and its ‘previous’ in blocking local markets/impacts and other mergers etc. e.g. local convenience stores and opticians at a hyper local level.  Yet Tesco with c30% of the food market can be allowed to obtain greater control of more of the market.  The inevitability stems from both a feeling of unwillingness to intervene at such a macro level and from the ‘domino’ effect on NISA (who voted to be taken over by the Co-op), Costcutter and so on.  The desire to ‘do a Tesco’ and get into wholesaling has expanded as the deal became more likely.  If you can’t beat ‘em, then…….

The CMA seems to be concluding there are lots of competitive opportunities and post-merger nothing much will change.  I can accept the former in that there is competition, but the latter is naive. Some Booker supported retailers are pleased about the deal as they feel they will get much keener prices and better support; others though see this as lessening competition in the medium term as independent retailers and other contractual chains will struggle to compete and stay open. The control the new entity will have in the convenience market will be a powerful weapon to further grow and it is hard to see what will oppose it.

A final Tesco thought, but not from these shores.  On my recent trip to Singapore, I visited a new (3 day open) NTUC FairPrice store.  Within it was a delineated Tesco section as shown below.  On investigating further it seems that this deal with NTUC goes beyond the example I saw, covering online product sales (via FairPrice and HonestBee) and an in-store Finest concession in the Bukit Timah store – as shown in the piece from the Straits Times.  Examples of the more innovative thinking that has begun to be seen across the company – and could be coming to a Booker store near you soon.

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Posted in Accounting, Booker, CMA, Competition, Competition and Markets Authority, Convenience stores, Finest, Food Retailing, International Retailing, Local Retailers, Market Shares, NTUC FairPrice, Profits, Retail Change, Retailers, Singapore, Suppliers, Tesco, Wholesaling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perth – Past, Present, Future

Perth PPF

Last week I ventured north to the ‘Fair City’ of Perth for a presentation at a Scottish Civic Trust and Perth Civic Trust evening event on the theme of Perth: Past, Present and Future.  I had been given the task of looking to the future and especially in the context of retailing and what those in Perth seem to view as the problems they face.  Basically an outsider pontificating about an unknown future – no pressure them!

The evening should really have started with a chorus of Happy Birthday, as both the Scottish Civic Trust (and Perth Civic Trust) and the University of Stirling are celebrating their/our 50th Anniversaries.  1967 was indeed a fine year.  I could not help musing that if Stirling had not beaten Perth in the competition for the new University for Scotland, then I could have been presenting as a professor from the University of Perth.

Three presentations were made (including mine) and then a good hour or so of discussion and questions.

The introductory presentation (the Past) was by Professor David Munro who covered 800 years of Perth history in 10 minutes.  Broad in scope and erudite in nature, as benefits a former Director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, David developed a theme of the development of the streetscape and morphology of Perth and its special characteristics.

Second up was the Depute Chief Executive of Perth and Kinross Council, Jim Valentine tackling the Present.  Normally at events like this, council officers get a rough time, but in his coverage of the Perth Present, Jim laid out a realistic framework for considering the council situation and some of the ideas already in place to improve the city.  Inevitably the City Hall proposals got a mention.

My contribution was meant to be focused on retailing and Perth and I did get there in the end.  The overheads are available for download here.  Crystal ball gazing in retailing is a mug’s game, especially to an audience who know the place concerned better than you do.  So I opted for the safe ground of a narrative about why towns and cities matter, retail change generally and then some specific (outsider) considerations for Perth.  What struck me as I showed some of the Local Data Company data was that the historical influences David Munro talked about, were still so evident in the present day and will shape the future.

Perth LDC

Local Data Company Map and Dashboard for Perth – full details about this dashboard or equivalents for any town/centre available from the Local Data Company

The discussion was open and frank and only occasionally drifted over to the perennials of car parking and rates.  The main focus was on people – as it should be – and the need for more people living in the centre and the realism or challenge of the Council’s ambition for population growth, in terms of facilities, employment and capacity.

From my point of view I was not just opting for a safe evening by being more complementary than not about Perth and its future.  Many of the problems Perth faces (in retailing and central streets) are not unique and indeed the data (from for example our Understanding Scottish Places website) shows Perth is doing well/better than say Dundee or Stirling.  In retail terms it has one of the highest proportions of independent retailers and is comparatively diverse (as shown in our 2016 Retail Summit).  The pessimism of some in the audience is for me misplaced.  Perth has major assets and is using them.  The plans for the future are positive and the place is pulling together.  Yes, challenges of accommodating change abound and will continue, but there is a sound basis for the future.  It was an enjoyable and in the end positive evening and the three presentations dovetailed well given we’d not discussed them in advance.

 

McEwans

McEwans Department Store in Perth  – soon to reopen as Beales first Scottish store

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, Closure, Consumer Change, Consumers, High Streets, Historic Shops, History, Independents, Online Retailing, Perth, Places, Public Realm, Reinvention, Retail Planning, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Shopfronts, Store Closures, Streets, Streetscapes, Town Centre Living, Town Centres, Understanding Scottish Places, Urban History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Singapore’s Scary Monsters

Back in the warmth of Singapore for our graduation and alumni events and associated student and other meetings, and there seemed to be only one question people had for me; what could be done about Singapore’s ailing retail sector?  On the surface there seemed little wrong – lots of people around – but beneath this, things may be a little scary.

Singapore is not a large place and its connectivity has expanded rapidly over recent decades, with more MRT and other lines on the way.  The raising of quality and quantity in heartland malls and local shopping have decentralised retailing both for locals and for some tourists.  There is also a lot – and I mean a lot – of retail space, more of it empty than before. Rent is high and the economy is doing less well than it has in the past. E-commerce is growing from a low base.

A day visiting Orchard Road quickly makes the point.  Mall after mall, all upgraded, all chasing the same tourist spend and all with the same retailers (and French, Korean, Japanese et al  pastry shops which have exploded) rather numbs the mind.  Yes they differ in design and scale, but the function – and the functions within them – are identical.  The REIT phenomena has made venues almost interchangeable and despite the crowds it is hard to take positives across all the malls.  Empty space is more obvious (not just on Orchard) and according to reports is at a record high.  With high prices and such ‘sameness’ no wonder retailers are struggling.  Over shopped, over priced and for Singaporeans better deals ‘over there’.

And it is not only the tourist strip of Orchard Road that has this feel. The newest mall I saw was barely open, but the redeveloped SingPost center in Paya Lebar looked the same as so many others (although it is now twice the size after redevelopment). More locally focused perhaps and stuffed with food and beverage (now 30-50% of most malls) it was new, but in so many ways, old. I fear that this blandness and sameness has reached a tipping point and the vacant spaces are silent testimony to a massive and scary structural problem.

20171006_111921.jpg20171006_112011

Another small instance of this is the adjacencies in some malls. The two photos below are from Marina Bay Sands (another with gaps) and from Ion Orchard. Fancy a Steinway with your Lego? Or keep your kids quiet with Ferrari junior (why?) while you have your teeth fixed? I am not sure I see the thinking here.

20171006_14061020171002_121830

In my entire visit I only found one shop example that fought against the blandness.  In Ion Orchard, I came across Samsara by Gentle Monster.  Now I am not the target market, being neither on trend nor Korean influenced, but Gentle Monster did make me stop and look.  Is at a shop or an art installation?

20171002_113633

Gentle Monster is a Korean designer sunglasses business which has grown rapidly in the last few years.  Its reputation is of generating quirky flagship stores and a celebrity following.  Singapore is the latest Asian store but there are stockists in Europe (Harvey Nichols in London).  Supposedly based around Nietzsche’s “Thus spoke Zarathustra”, the Singapore store is a bizarre (my term) set of ‘rooms’ with moving art installations (see montage below) and sunglasses in showcases.  It is quite a lot of space for a few sunglasses and I wonder about sales vs costs, but it certainly is a flagship statement.  The staff were engaging and wanting people to explore the store and seemed pleased to show it off. Their current website has a good explanation of the thinking behind the store and the displays in motion.

Experience and experimental retailing has been often claimed as the way forward and Singapore malls have space in spades to play with.  But can this experience be made to pay, consistently?  Gentle Monster is an interesting one-off but will it go stale quickly or will imitations make it lose its difference?  Either way, there is going to have to be a lot more innovation and smart thinking to sort out the space and demand equation in many malls in Singapore (and elsewhere).

Posted in Adjacencies, Art, Brands, Corporate branding, Customer engagement, Design, Experiential, Flagship, Food and Beverage, Gentle Monster, Korea, Malls, Online Retailing, Retailers, Retailing, Shopping Centres, Singapore, Space, Vacancies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Time Out in Lisbon: Part Two

Following on from my personal wander around Lisbon and the Mercado da Ribeira (Part One), and on the day after my keynote presentation on retail, consumption and urban governance (the overheads are here), the conference had its own ambulation around the city, focusing on the Avenida da Liberdade and the Chiado.

The Avenida is the grand boulevard heart of Lisbon and is a 19th century installation.  The place to be seen and to see, it is in the grand tradition of such boulevards or avenues in Europe.  As Lisbon moved up from the waterfront and the older core and Chiado, so the Avenida took on an enhanced role for living and playing.

Today’s Avenida is very different to its original conception, with sometimes grander buildings, certainly more traffic and a renewed focus as the place for luxury retailing.  As the visuals below show, it is in part a calm space, in part a busy road.  Grand buildings remain, but interspersed with more modern monstrosities.  What were the planners (and architects) thinking?  Luxury retailers abound, bit so too do the new ‘luxury’ fashion for the popular market.  An Avenue of flagships.

The second part of the walk covered the older heart of Lisbon and especially the Chiado.  Affected by fire and other disasters it continues to undergo change but is a vibrant tourist and to an extent local heart, full of stores, shops, restaurants, squares and generally places to interact.  It feels much more personable and for people, than the Avenida, which was more for ostentatious display.

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One pleasant discovery walking around was the continuing presence – though sometimes precarious – of old historical shops, including their interiors. This included apparently the world’s oldest bookstore, and possibly the world’s smallest glove shop. The slide show above and below shows external pictures of some of these and the modern re-use of some grand facades by current attractions, for example H&M and Apple.

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The final stop of the day was an exhibition – Shops with a Story to Tell – which was another pleasant surprise.  This historical shops exhibition both mourned those that had been lost and celebrated in pictures, stories and artifacts those that remain.  Quite a few of these had been seen on the walking tour, but here their stories were told and modern photograpahs used to express their continuing value.  A few of the pieces are shown below which showcase the interiors of some of the shops seen earlier.

The exhibition was interesting – especially for someone who loves old shops and places which seek to preserve them and their business.  But, it perhaps was a little too ‘flat’, comprising the same approach to all the subjects.  The opportunity to integrate the story of shops, places and Lisbon, and to reflect on the present and the value history brings, was a little missed.

In one thing though the exhibition was a great success.  At the exit there was no gift shop (sorry, Banksy) but rather a collection of postcards with images used in the exhibition.  On the back of each card was text giving opening dates, operating hours, addresses and directions to the shop, plus a map of those other historical stores nearby.  In that way you could construct your own walking tour to the real things.  A flavour of the imagery is presented below.

 

Wouldn’t it be good if we could we do the same for say Edinburgh or Glasgow or even smaller cities such as Perth or Stirling, or have we lost too much?

Posted in Academics, Architecture, Brands, Buildings, Consumer Lifestyle, High Streets, Historic Shops, History, Lisbon, Localisation, Places, Public Realm, Regeneration, Reinvention, Resilience, Retail Change, Retail History, Retailing, Shopfronts, Streets, Streetscapes, Tourism, Town Centres, Urban History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment