Retail: a shopping experience embedded with adventure

The department store is an interior design feat, unlike a retail store, administration and storage is out of view. The goal here is multiple shop front display with seamless compartmentalising to allow for absolute browsing. Plinths are dressed with piles of neatly folded homewares, mannequins feature latest designs to give a stylish impression, tactile textile meandering is subtly demanded. Everything is labeled, with the branding itself but also the price, there are no surprises. Department stores are pleasure-inducing. This idea, was in part, a legacy of Harry Selfridge of Selfridges London. He proposed a shopping experience embedded with adventure in an egalitarian model, the first of its kind, launched in 1909. In Selfridge’s time, there was one dress size for display and the garments were measured on-site, tailored in-house. This retail experience has translated to today’s market with the ever available ‘bra’ fitting. You herald a zebra-clad lady that possesses a look of knowing, they will predict your bra cup and upper body girth with a glance and, it’s a complimentary service. Old and scary are not synonymous, it’s a myth. Older with experience in customer service is a breath of fresh air.

photo of Millinery Section Selfridges
Millinery Section, Selfridges

Department store catwalk events are meticulously planned and marketed these days, especially to the customers of the stores with purchasing power and an eye for fashion. As the Myer retail empire grew in the first half of the 20th century, so did the ideas of how to present fashion. In the late 40’s Frank Packer (Australian Women’s Weekly) and Myer joined forces to sponsor French fashion parades, the first Australian in-store runway shows. David Jones brought Paris to Sydney soon after to launch 50 items from the Dior ‘New Look’ range, using house models with teensy waists (50cm exactly). Australia was the only country outside France to show the complete collection, which is conveniently on display from 27 August – 7 November 2017 at NGV Melbourne.

Myer Orange
Myer Orange

The minute you pass the ground floor threshold of a department store from the street you are immediately consumed by the scents and colour in abundance, actually all your senses are assaulted, there is music too and those testing moisturisers add to the experience. While you could follow your nose, it is unlikely you can pick one scent, there is a symphony of smells. So to the lipsticks, the blush, the multitude of branded mascara - overwhelming choice lends itself to the expertise of the makeup artist to provide an individual experience that will enhance beauty and propel spending, a carnival for the face. Shopping centres are celebrating 100 years of existence and so much has changed, yet the ground floor, open plan beauty centre remains intact. If it ain’t broke...

Perfume counter at Walsh's department store in 1972
Perfume counter at Walsh's department store in 1972

 

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