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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Death Of Oxford Street Is Also It's Resurrection

For years many claimed that the Westfield Shopping Mall in Bondi Junction, Sydney, Australia would be the death of the surrounding shopping precincts. These included Double Bay, Rose Bay, Oxford Street, Paddington and Glenmore Road. To anyone outside of Sydney this blog post may seem irrelevant, but no doubt the same phenomenon may have existed in your city too, just change the name of the Retail Investment Trust and insert the name of your suburb within your city here.... 

And certainly the Westfield in Bondi Junction, the largest shopping mall in the Southern Hemisphere so I am told, did have an impact on surrounding areas. Everything was housed under one roof, there was ample parking, every chain from Louis Vuitton to Coles Supermarkets was under one Big Top; you never need move your car, you never need bring your umbrella. Double Bay became a ghost town with For Lease signs covering half the retail space windows. Oxford Street Paddington suffered the same phenomenon. It was all quiet, there was not much going on, everyone had evacuated the area. But precisely when something is dying it's death, you can see change on the horizon and a new dawn is born. The first time I noticed it was when I was able  to find a parking spot in Double Bay and enjoy the village atmosphere again. For years it was clogged with cars and parking attendants just waiting to fine you. When everyone fled the area, so did the parking inspectors (little bastards) and it was the first time people could breath easily. Cheaper parking metres and less parking attendants is a good thing if you want to get people to come back. Then they eased up on the licensing in the area and two bars, Mrs Sippi and Pelicano opened up. No longer was the Bay just for old Hungarians looking to eat schnitzel. The same could be said of Oxford Steet. The moment all those For Lease signs went up you could in fact find a parking spot on the strip. Saturdays was no longer a terrifying ordeal of an overcrowded foot path, rip-off merchant shops and nasty attitudinal staff in boutiques. Nope, it became a strip suddenly grateful again for your dollar. Furthermore, the new businesses that were coming back to the area were no longer bent on being fashion brands. The new Oxford Street was differentiating itself from the big brands with mall shops across the country. Two examples were Physicore, a pilates / resistance training fitness centre which was small and intimate and very relaxed, and, my absolute favourite, The Art Of Dr Seuss, a spin off of the Trevor Victor Harvey Gallery. They were selling limited edition prints from Dr. Seuss, framed and numbered - they were the perfect kind of new business that Oxford Street needed rather than the same old same old boutiques you could find in any old Westfields. I for one was so happy to find these two new businesses on Oxford Street that I am proclaiming it's resurrection on the basis that soon more unique businesses will follow back, away from the 16 store model, and back to selling unique things in limited numbers from one or two stores. And this phenomenon could also be seen in Collette Dinnigan on Queen Street in Woollahra, where their philosophy was to put a tag on every garment telling you that you were purchasing 1/56 or 1/300 garments made worldwide and where the material was sourced and in what country the garment was made. You want to keep your prices high, this is how you should do it. 

Limited Edition Print From The Art Of Dr. Seuss - Now Owned By Yours Truly - PS: It was the bow tie that sold me.

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