Retailers Make The Places

I got an email today from my member of parliament.

Eleni Evangel.

She and Milena Djurasinovic are the most powerful in the land.

And what was on the link?

A snip of the New York Times article praising Perth.

Yes, but what's this all about?

This is about retailers.

Retailers make the places that drive community participation.

It's the over-the-head photo of the vine entangled in the rafters which excites the New York Times.

If people are participating in your street it's because of places made by retailers.

This is what sends us in to a tiz.

Jay Wilde of Wear2, Paddy Troy Lane, Fremantle, Australia. A place manager driving community participation.

Do Cars Matter In Our Cities?

Cool cars are about the uniqueness and good design you find part of your high street shopping trip.

Next to customers and shops and fashion - not like a shopping centre carpark - cool cars become part of the mainstreet experience.

Red Mustang at Lorna Jane, a business I put into 56 Market Street, Fremantle, Australia in 2010.

More Mustang?

This Is Place Management

You would think that when you reach the summit in a city and are rewarded with the best the town has to offer in the way of views that reverence will be apparent and whilst you don't ask much, perhaps a parting of the heavens, a chocolate bar or the chance to see someone funny naked will be your reward.

Or there could just be a bin there.

Not a movey-movey bin - a bolted bin, fixed by concrete, installed by a blind man or someone 45 centremetres tall. This is Place Management.

'Managing the conversation' is a precept raised by Mr Seth Grossman, a professor at Rutgers University, New Jersey, teaching business district management.

In order for the world to be sustainable - for us all to fulfill ourselves whilst making the cycle-of-life efficient for those who follow us - we must manage our places imagining what people are saying to themselves whilst they're here.

So simple.

But, evidently, hard.

The way we do this is get around our places ourselves.

If you want a sustainable community and economy, you must spend several hours per day within your place, experiencing all the little corners, and listening.

To your own conversation.

That's what I did. Up here.

"By golly, that's a great view for a photo - but I can barely get my elbows in there. Because of the bin. Now why would a city put a rubbish bin right there - where evidently one of the greatest assets is beyond it (this terrific view) and, probably, lovers and others will want photos of themselves. It's great that they're getting that thrill in our place. They'll tell their friends and we can use that publicity to curate further sustainability and development for ourselves. Wow, wouldn't it be bad if they all laughed at us because the bin was in the photo. Or perhaps, and worse, they will never take the photo in the first place - they'll choose against it."

"Or, perhaps, and even worse-worse, they'll miss the opportunity for fulfillment that this place offers - the bin will simply 'escape' it away for them. Opportunity for us (and, more importantly, them) lost."

So here's what you do.

1. Contact the bin guy. He will be in the 'City Works' department, or 'The Depot'.

2. There will be mumbling. They are just doing what they're told. Well, what they're told is 'the conversation'. But that would be too simple. And obvious. And may necessitate shaving off 15% of the staff jobs resting behind 'position descriptions' ushered forth from the godly skies of Human Resources.

3. But like all depot guys, he'll be a big softie at heart, and if you can get him the authorisation from God, he really couldn't give a shit if the bin was moved four metres up the lane.

4. So then you see God.

5. Screaming.

6. Consultancy.

7. Yay! Meetings.

8. Position Description: do I see a new one coming? No - that's a separate problem, God, that we have to solve after this one - y'know, the one about all the consultancy and meetings? Remember 'managing the conversation'?

10. Pause.

11. Oh! Finally!

12. No, wait. Pause ...

13. Let's bring the community to it's knees until there's outrage. After all if 'position description' doesn't see it, then 20 professionals in the community have to take unpaid leave to freely consult and argue until God finally does what we all thought should be done in the first place, which is to put one's balls on the table, manage the conversation, and make a decision even if Position Description begins to smoulder with rage.

14. Shit something happened.

15. Yes, God, it was your idea anyway.

16. Good boy.

And here's one I prepared earlier.

Place management.

Arthur's Head, or Derbal Yerrigan to the people who used to hunt juicy little woylie here, the ovum for what would become Perth, the capital city of Western Australia and the most important city in the world after Pipariya in Hoshangabad.

The West End of Fremantle, Australia, viewed from Captains Lane: loved by Cate Blanchette, nearly home to Ben Elton, seen by Tony Robinson's producer and almost listed - the whole precinct, that is - as a world heritage area, as the best and only in-tact and working Victorian port, ever. 

And here's the Before.

And, the After.

Managing the conversation.

This is Place Management.

An Analysis Of Hourly Footfall Trends In January 2014, In Fremantle

An analysis of hourly footfall trends in January 2014 across Fremantle's four counters.

It shows different volumes (line heights) and hourly changes throughout the day (the shape of the lumps).

Each line represents a different counter. The blue one is the biggest and busiest - South Terrace (averages about 345,000 people per month, so far).


*           *           *

Below shows us the average daily footfall for for the last four months, for each counter.

Remember: The counters count 24/7, 365.

South Terrace had a moody January. Why? January: people away for holidays. South Terrace is more a leisure-area.

High Street West End is University Street. Notre Dame students affect the footfall at this location. The variations after October are affected by university holidays.

Market Street and Adelaide Street have the most reliable January. Market Street is used by Train Station customers, and Adelaide Street is in the middle of the banking and bustop areas.

Adelaide Street had the most impressive response to December.

The daily footfall in Adelaide Street is remarkably favourable to the retailer's clock - it rises and falls with the opening hours of general retail. See below:

Average hourly footfall in Adelaide Street Fremantle as seen across the seven days of the week 

To see what I mean, look at this one, in East Victoria Park's mainstreet.

This is Adelaide Street.

Thank you. 

Well, That Went Well

That went well. All of November's people counting reports are tucked away warmly in their client's desks.

And I will do that again. I will blog about charts as I create them.

In the meantime, I've begun a summary-chart, comparing all counters in my network - a League Table, if you like.

Below: People counting totals in Perth for the month of November, 2013

It's Now December

It's now December, and we beaver around ponds of pedestrian data for November and publish it.

This month is different.

Since July we've been doing this, and each time it's a private excitement which I'm no longer going to hide! So I am writing mini-articles as I go (it might take three days to collate and publish all our reports) which publish my insights (into whatever) as we go.

I recent had a look at the statistics for this site and realised we have quite a chunky number of readers. Instantly that strangled me. I want to maintain relevance and quality whilst being un-boring.

So you have to tell me how I go. OK?

Tracer Mk3 at St George Bank, 21 Adelaide Street, Fremantle, Australia

The Fremantle Business Improvement District Co. Ltd - A Beautiful City's Newest Client

I can now reveal that our latest client is the Fremantle Business Improvement District Co. Ltd - a not-for-profit business district management company with funding of about $1.7million over five years.  Juicy.

Just like all clever people, the Fremantle BID has a place-based focus to local economic vibrancy, community particpation and all those yummy synonyms of a beautiful city.

The BID has a business plan and is accountable to the commercial property and businesses owners within the Fremantle-CBD boundary.

Funding has come directly from the local council rates levied within the BID area - a differential rate, it's called, which is an extra tax on top of the normal council rates. This goes straight to the BID. They have their own employees and their own offices (just like a shopping centre management company) and they co-opt with their members (the aforementioned differential rate payers) to affect business improvement within their district.

I am thrilled to announce that they have chosen us to provide their people counting services within the city.  We have started counting in four locations; some of the numbers are really off the scale and I look forward to analysing them shortly for all their juicy insights.


Above: We are counting on South Terrace, Adelaide Street, Market Street and High Street - four really interesting retail streets with fascinating histories - and futures, I'm sure.

I would like to thank the following people who participated in this project:

Chloe Coombe -  Administration and Project Coordinator, Fremantle BID

Kim Low - Executive Manager, Fremantle BID

Cameron Bartkowski - City of Fremantle

Sharon Atkinson - City of Fremantle

Tom Griffiths - City of Fremantle

Peter Kanganas - Landlord, 55 Market Street

Richard Poulson - Morrison International

Kylie-Jane Radford - Morrison International

Peta - Morrison Fremantle

Daniel - Hush Espresso

Bill May - Landlord, 28 Adelaide Street

Tony Chapman - Landlord, 34 Adelaide Street

Nicole - Valleygirl Fremantle

Gerard McGann - Landlord, 93 High Street

Moti - Clara True Beauty

Rebecca - Clara True Beauty

David Wallace and The Gub Gub Family - Landlords, 52 South Terrace

David Heaton - Metropolis Fremantle

Vince Recupero - Metropolis Fremantle

The staff at Metropolis Fremantle

John and family- Fremantle Bakehouse

Alan De Souza - Fremantle Bakehouse

5 Principles Of Mainstreet Management, Independent Retail And Streetside Vitality

I am at a councillor candidate debate for the inner city ward of Fremantle and I'm pleased to say that all of the opening questions from the floor are about:

  • The city's 'decline as a centre for business and retail'
  • How can we create, restore or bring in 'vibrancy' to the town centre
  • And why do people put neatly wrapped nappies underneath their cars then drive away?

The answers from the candidates include having more festivals, giving the shops away for free and stabbing the landlords.

Principles, not ideas, please.

Festivals and free properties and murder are jolly good fun but they are temporary - and expensive.

This is what potential councillors should say to the electorate:

Question: "What are you going to do to revitalise businesses in High Street West End!?"

Answer: "Thank you. Please keep in mind that my position on council is as a member of a team. If the council agrees, as a whole, then we shall direct the City (the organisation) to put our strategies in to action. I bring this up because I am of no use to the community if my promises can never be realised, and I vow not to drag the electorate into a fight after the election because I misunderstood how local government works and I just need to save face. Showing off in the local paper about my 'council issues' puts the community and council into 'stalemate' which prevents the community from truly developing."

"With that aside, and to answer the question more directly, this is what I would promote to my team, and I know that they'll agree:"

  1. "The council, and the City, must acknowledge that it is the chief place manager in the town."

  2. "It cannot pretend it has 'nothing to do' with local retailers. Whilst it is reasonable that the personal, financial circumstances of businesses are not the council's responsibility, the council must appreciate that there is a virtuous cycle of: a) high quality places, b) high quality businesses, and c) high quality community participation, creativity and innovation."

  3. "A good quality place manager - and that should be the local government - should create a bespoke management system, unique for its place, so all three elements of this cycle efficiently maintain the other. It is the c) high quality community participation, creativity and innovation which creates b) high quality businesses which create the c) high quality places."

  4. "To get started, the council really needs to fund a person, or a team, who are experienced in retail and property management to facilitate the measurement and sustainable growth of the a) high quality places, b) high quality businesses, and c) high quality community participation, creativity and innovation."

  5. "The council must also acknowledge that it may have systems in place which are repugnant to this cycle. Some of the council's activity must include permissions-to-change internally and to 'move out of the way' so this virtuous cycle can be sown and harvested by the skilled representatives employed to do such a thing."

"We should never have to complain that our place is not vibrant - and we don't have to. The lack of so-called vibrancy in our towns and high streets is because local governments, I'm afraid to say, don't manage them well.  A well managed city must have a shopping-centre-style focus to reduce vacancies, attract the right businesses and have effective design management."

"I would use my position on council to encourage my colleagues to appreciate and understand all of this."

These are the outcomes we want.  Principles, not ideas, please.

Above: Shhhh. Local community debate over 'high streets', retail, business attraction, vacancies and 'vibrancy'. At the Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club, 9 Henry Street, Fremantle, Australia.  "Don't mention the skate park," the moderator warned the candidates, "... a decided issue and candidates should not mislead the electorate that they can go onto council and reverse it".

A Lesson In Business District Management

People come to our communities to communicate with each other, generate creativity and innovation and to build businesses and relationships.  And crashing into that like a Pterodactyl at a petting zoo is the public drunk.

Because if your city is full of jerks all the good people will talk about your district behind your back (in a bad way) and then go to a different district to build their communities and businesses there.

That's what the small bar legislation was for - to put large format taverns and their customers out of business so the rest of the community can get on with it.

We all want to show off to our girlfriends, and thanks to this legislation those who do not have striations in their pectorals can now appear attractive by drinking across a restaurant table without fear of being put in jail.  And at the same time actually generate the creativity and innovation which makes a district sustainable.

I know many argue that this is an intrusion on the otherwise law-abiding public who deserve to bring cartons of beer to public parks and our beaches, strip off their shirts, scream at each other - say 'fuck' a lot - leave their litter behind and then do a wee-wee on your fence.  But that's just dumb.

Seriously guys?  Emu Export?  In the drain is where it belongs.  Good sports, though. Dockers screening - Esplanade Park - Marine Terrace Fremantle, Australia.  Saturday September 28, 2013 - AFL Grand Final Day.

Fremantle - Be A Good Loser

Oh, well.  It didn't work out.

Never mind.

Prior to the Grand Final Fremantle had uniformly ridden a wave of gentle excitement, expressing itself in purple shopfronts and lots else.  There was no need to wait for 'fair weather' for this to happen.  You've always had a football team - a purple one - and each September there's footy finals, enthralling the nation no matter who plays.

Be a good loser.  Show your purple shopfronts not only because you want to be at the winners side but because you support Fremantle, football, and have a story to tell of support (for the players right now) - rain, hail or shine.

Having a football team, even a losing one, is an asset.  You - unlike other places - can celebrate September and the AFL calender and get the best reaction in your region.

Retailers and shopfronts lead the conversation in the minds of the pedestrian so show of your assets en masse often and not just when a pot of gold is thrown at your feet.  The visitor needs that distinct and local story to generate loyalty to your precinct.

Above: After the game.  Wilson Carpark, old 'Gas and Coke' site, corner of Queen and Cantonment Streets, Fremantle, Australia.

Below: St John Ambulance, corner of Market and High Streets, Fremantle.  I have never, ever, seen an ambulance change it's livery.

Men At Work Maintaining Mainstreets

These chaps are from the Freo Men's Shed in White Gum Valley and are in central Fremantle, Australia, removing stickers and bits from an electrical switching box or something on the corner of High Street Mall and Market Street.

The gents are paid by the local government's 'City Works' department and they attack the city centre street by street and perform general and routine maintenance, as well as deliver recommendations to City Works on other items, such as footpath repairs, linemarking or other objects which must be attended to maintain a sustainable central business district.

Five More Reasons To Have Schools in Your City

This is what happens when you mix uses and have education / schools in the central business district and retail areas of your city.

  1. The kids see the community and economy at work - not like being stuck in a yellow field in Canning Vale.
  2. The community and economy gets more people within their realm - that's good.
  3. The bonds between the local retail community and the growing population increase.
  4. The place becomes safer as kids and retailers get to know each other.
  5. Hey look - they're walking around.

Above: corner of High and Pakenham Streets in Fremantle, Australia.

Story of a Dying Laneway

We must always retain our pedestrian thoroughfares because ...

  1. If we get bored or scared walking along one route, next time we can try another.
  2. With more pedestrian thoroughfares through our city we retain people's (the customer's) attention longer.
  3. This strengthens their bonds with our district because they are spending more time there and having more experiences.
  4. This prevents them from choosing another district, and
  5. This means our city will be sustainable.

This is Paddy Troy Lane in Fremantle.

It used to be that you could walk all the way through.  Legend has it that a falling out between the landlord and the local authority made the landlord say, 'Right, I'll show you' and erected a shop on their private land facing William Street and forever cutting off public access.

You're looking at the back of it here.

As a consequence, probably, the Newport Hotel (which is behind me in the photo) closed its rear entrance which took pedestrians all the way from the Town Hall clock in the distance, up the lane, through a rear passage of the hotel and out on to the Cappuccino Strip - one of Australia's best retail streets.

So now if you want to get from the city square and town hall clock to the best retail street in Australia you have to perambulate either left or right to find another opening in the city grid.

Yes, we know that the part of the laneway in the picture is on private property but local governments must step up and become better negotiators (and the state government must give them permission to do so).

Or else they should own their own buildings.


These Defects Make a Place Unique, But That's The Wrong Type Of Unique

Why are these lovers standing here?

They're stranded here.  The rain caught us all.

Once upon a time, the next building along was like its brothers and sisters on this street: Victorian architecture with an 'Australian-style' awning, as Jan Gehl puts it.

But it was demolished and replaced with something else.  Without an awning.

Now there is no contiguous pedestrian network.  This effectively strands us, which can sometimes be lovely and cosy, but really means that your precinct is less desirable for customers and new businesses.  It's 'functionality' is impaired.

Understandably, these 'so-called defects' also make a place unique.  But that's the wrong type of unique.

We want the 'unique' that's created by independent retailers and place management solutions which are locally distinct.

Heavy rainfall is a permanent deterrant for many who have alternative locations to consider.  These can be other streets in your district, other districts, or (no!) indoor shopping centres.

We limit our strolling distance because of these impediments.  This directly affects the quality of your community because businesses and economies are out of reach of people.

Profitable hours of operation are diminished per year, as is foot traffic.

A safe, comfortable and interesting pedestrian network is necessary.

Above: The Record Finder, 87 High Street West End, Fremantle, Australia

You Will Never Have Economy Without Community - And Vice Versa

Above: This is one of my favourite photos because it shows a community of gentlemen in the centre of public life.

The image of the retired gent sitting on a park bench arguing about football or politics, or playing chess with his friends, makes up a huge part of the mainstreet myth and ideal, and I know it's an image thousands of mainstreets want to capture for themselves.

So thank you 'Gino's', 1 South Terrace, Fremantle, Australia, because retailers drive public life and you're doing that.

And you can download the A Beautiful City report for more about that.

Gino's Cafe & Trattoria on Urbanspoon


Sleepless A Beautiful City Counts People to Go to Sleep

I can't help myself.

When I've had a surplus of sleep and I'm awake at 3am and ready to go, I don't go to the beach or do a workout.

I drive to our business districts, taking people-counter measurements and photos, and admiring our economies whilst they're asleep.

This is what your mainstreets looked like at 4am.

Below: Mimco, 673 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley

Below: The Daily Planet, 634 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley

Below: Street cleaning at the The Northbridge Arch, corner of James and Lake Street, Northbridge

Below: Catholic Church, and the Central Institute of Technology Arts Building, with mural, at 12 Aberdeen Street, Northbrdge

Below: Our famous cockatoos, corner of Newcastle and William Streets, Northbridge

Below: The Good Store, 363 Albany Highway, Victoria Park

Below: Saffi Belle, 28 Market Street, Fremantle.  Seen in an A Beautiful City design blog.

Below: Remedy and Clara, 95 High Street, Fremantle