Retail Design

A Review of Coventry Village Markets

Coventry's is a large site which was once an industrial something-or-other.

Called Coventry's.

They have lots of branches around.

I'm not really sure what they do.

Anyway, they decided they didn't need this site anymore so they sold it.

The new owner said they wanted to create an indoor market. Ok, then.

To set the standard and to prevent headaches with quality-control the landlord said he would provide high-quality shop counters, side by side. The inspiration was Victoria Markets in Melbourne, Australia, like this:

Above and below: Queen Victoria Markets, corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne City Centre, Australia.

The landlord told me he wanted 30 butchers, 15 cheese guys and about as many fruity ones. Sounds delicious.

And not impossible.

So, let's go check it out. It's been five years and I've never seen it.

The centre faces the main road - Walter Road West - and there are some nice curly bits. Gutsy. They can't have been cheap.

But, really, the main entry is at the rear. You have to drive down a new road to get to the rear of the property and the market's entrance.

Wow, it's in a sea of enormous.

The lane is kissed by a big, warehouse wall and at the back is a huge carpark.

Not much 'markets' yet.

More curly bits. I like it.

The grand entry is not so grand. That's bad. Let's show off a little and seduce our audience.

I didn't see any door counters on the inside. Naughty.

The grocer. I checked it out but the prices are more expensive than Galati's.

The shops are panel boards set up in rows. And the street names are a great touch.

I thought it was a suggestion board at first, but a retailer has cut out their Facebook reviews, laminated them, and posted them outside their shop. Good.

The height is jolly impressive. Without height, spaces suck. Whether this building has a preservation order on it or not I don't know (I doubt it), but you can see how the saw-tooth pattern of the roof allows for large glass panels to let in light.

I only saw one plant indoors and rushed up to greet it. Plastic. Mmm ...

The doorways and shopfronts have mouldings to add to the building's impression. They are made of a composite plastic, it seems. No shame in that.

Because I was in the area I popped across the road to Morley Galleria, the regional shopping centre. Used to be my favourite.

But: not good.

Wow, that's bad.

* * *

Moving on.

Look at the height of the people, the height of the shopfronts and the height of the ceiling.

It's two storey building.

This is how tall a two-storey building should be. Really tall.

And what have we here? Noice.

They should do weddings.

And here's a tip. A vacant shop should still have a story. So, good one (below)

Every time I take photos in a shopping centre I begin to get stalked by security guards so I gave up and left.

And that's just one difference between your mainstreet and a shopping centre.

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Coventry Village, 253 Walter Road West, Morley, Australia.

This Is How The Private Sector Pays For Community Development

You're at a street. You see something new.

You cross the road.

An old service station has been fit out as a cafe. The forecourt has a large, timber deck on it.

The place is packed.

You're glad your friend recommended this place, and you sit down with him and have a chin-wag.

And, as a bonus, the coffee is excellent.

Along come 2 more chums you haven't seen in a while. Together, you all hatch new plans for your careers. Away you will go to improve your businesses and households.

The world wins.

And innocently in the background, pedalling away to maintain all this community, is Place.

And that place is made and maintained by Johnny Retailer.

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Retailers fund community development.

All the local government has to do it curate it.

Never wait for your place to populated by the best retailers. Go out and hunt them down.

They are the place managers who drive  community building at no cost to you, the local government.

Cash, talent, design, resources, risk - it's all handled by your local independant retailer.

Roasting Warehouse, 312 South Terrace, South Fremantle, Australia

Di Bella Coffee Roasting Warehouse on Urbanspoon

The Shopfront Dilemma

Now, many - most - of the Hanoi shop-fronts have a roller door.  Bad? 


Just like in a shopping centre, a roller door permits 100% shopfront activation.  If you have glass panels and doorways - as most of us do - it seems you are creating more barriers between the public and private realms.

Not good.

OK, so 'roller shutters' are taboo.

We know that.  Some localities actively ban them - others are trying to back-fit their cities to rid themselves of them.

Opportunity!  We need roller doors that are acceptable when in closed position.

You can get 'semi-clear' roller doors now - pretty ugly,  but certainly they could also be decorated, have visual permeability, LED-lights inserted ...

See?  I should be rich.

Retailers have enough to worry about - activating the community in your city, for example - so the last thing they should have to do at 2am is wake up because someone smashed their front window.  This is why they like roller doors.

Because they just want to focus on growing your community and economy, and no customer or local authority is going to help them (either in time or money) to repair their constantly-scunged-up shopfronts.

Above: Thinh Can, 92 Hang Chieu, Hanoi, Vietnam

Tasty Interior Design - Haven't Seen That Before

Above: Interior. Greens and Co. 123 Oxford Street, Leederville, Australia.

Comforting, because in our super-heat, the paper lanterns sway with the breeze.

Not all good though. We hear the Greens and Co. proprietor is the same person appearing in our Naughty Melons page.

I'm sure there's a reasonable excuse, isn't there?

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Greens & Co on Urbanspoon

More Greens.

How to attract and retain people to our business districts

In order to retain people's interest in our business districts, placemaking by retailers must be cognisant of our need to feel safe, comfortable and interested.

Creating and showcasing depth in your shop expands the visual landscape for the visiting public.

Whether we are buying or not today, you are showing off your whole district by visually stimulating the passer-by.

You are giving light to a darkened street and adding volume to the visual buffet so people are attracted and retained.

Above: Shopfront, visual merchandising and lighting choices by Bed Bath N' Table, 165 Rokeby Road, Subiaco, Australia.

Below: The same by Dallimore's, 173 Rokeby Road.

Tiny Tables #4

There's something you got to know about me - I love tiny tables.

If you place a huge, truck-stop sized, four-by-four workbench in front of your cafe, people will not be able to see or hear each other across the table.

Then, they will not be able to sit there and enjoy eachother's company.

If they can't do that, then they will go somewhere else where they can.

Then, all of a sudden, your city will be empty.

And you don't want that.

Tiny tables at Boubar, 31 Hampden Road, Nedlands, Australia

Kids in the Economy

We want our kids to get out of the house and jump into life.

Joining the economy is a great way to do it.

These kids made about $56 on that day and sold lots of refreshments to two young neighbours who were moving in down the road.  Perfect.

Of course - the street is activated, neighbours get to know each other and the children learn new skills.

They learn about visual merchandising, dealing with strangers, mathematics, the thrill of the chase, dealing with disappointment, observing people's behaviour and working in a team.

And this all happened on their street, so no more long car journeys for the parents to a 'recreation area'.

No ones time is wasted and the city becomes a little bit better.

Tiny Tables #3

Cimbalino Espresso, 16 Napoleon Street, Cotetsloe, Australia

Yes, I'm a tiny table fetishist.  Why?  Because they're romantic, beautiful, and scare away smelly people.

Big picnic benches are for leftover pie wrappers, chicken bones and abandoned Masters cartons.

Tiny tables are for espresso, sex, books and music.

So if you - yes, you in local government - want your street to be excitable, sexy, well educated and with rhythm, spend money on expert human resources to hunt down retailers who know the seductive secret of tiny tables.

We Can Beat Shopping Centres At Their Own Game

Hello, this is hard for me to say but this is very much a 'look in the mirror' post.

I think it's vital that a blogger shows some insight into why the heck they're blogging in the first place.

House of horrors in department store

Is it any wonder some department stores are struggling when this is the instore design they serve up?

Sometime we gotta remind ourselves that big retailers are a marvel of distribution, mainly.  All the other elements which are synonymous with brilliant retail don't necessarily come naturally to them.

The church of Smiggle

Look at the hugeness of that Smiggle - you can tell by checking the people.

I will sneak in there with my tool one day to really measure it but it looks about 3.7 metres just to the internal ceiling.

This shop will be able to house a lot more different uses in the future than if it it were just as high as a basement - meaning the centre will have a longer life.  That means your city will be more sustainable and wont have to go through the bother of neglect, abandonment and demolition so often.

Churches and shops, they should all be tall if they are going to last.

Three things every cafe owner needs to know

1.  Have an interesting name.

2.  Your retail design is a collection of solutions to your problems: How should we clad the counter?  How should we dress the tables? What are people going to see when they look up?  How are we going to light the cafe without a ceiling cavity?  How can I finally put my long wooden ruler collection to use?

3.  Visit as many other cafes as you can in order to come up with your own inspiration.

That's it.

John Gorilla, 49 Pearson Street, Brunswick West, Australia


And a typical Australian scene across the road from John Gorilla to top it off.

Probably the most disgusting Gloria Jeans in the world

You will not believe this.  Probably the most disgusting Gloria Jeans in the world.  I'm sorry to Gloria Jeans, I know Gloria Jeans people.

I can't belive that all those feathers on the ground are actually bird feathers - I thought there was a pillow fight in the lane - but my host assured me they were from the coastal gulls.

The bird shit extends all over the Toys'R'Us signage next door and which is part of the Bayside Shopping Centre.

I would be pleased to tell them (for a nominal fee of $100,000) that a great way to keep people coming back to your centre and thus to underwrite the investment is to reduce shit all over the entry to 999,999 parts to a million.

Gloria Jeans, Shannon Street Mall, Frankston, Australia

Seed Of A Tall Poppy Planted In Claremont

This gives an idea of how tall the shop is.  Look at the people.  I've got a special tool that measures things such this and can tell you that this shop is 4.59m high to the top of the clapboard (15' 1").

Yes, this is better than a scungy little shop.  It lets in more light and just looks better.

Its a hard decision to make, but this shopping centre owner, this community, this local government made the right one.  The centre will have a longer life because the centre will be attractive to more people for longer.  This means its more sustainable and also becomes a more permanent part of the community.

Why do people prefer tall shops?  The same reason why a cathedral is tall and your attic is not, perhaps.

A courageous decision was made by the shopping centre owner and the Town of Claremont.  Congratu-bloody-lations.

Seed, Claremont Quarter Shopping Centre, Bay View Terrace, Claremont, Australia

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - Green Apple vs Woolworths in South Yarra

- at Vogue Shopping Plaza, 670 Chapel Street, South Yarra, Australia

If you don't get it, you're from Atwell.

If You Don't Want To Die, Build Tall Shops

This is Babushkas Russian and Eastern European Gifts and Jewellery, in the Royal Arcade in Melbourne.

The arcade is 10.97m high (36'). That's tall.

You can see that the arcade is bright and beautiful and people have a really good time there.  Do you think the arcade will be fully leased and looking beautiful if it was a tightly ceilinged, 2.70m-high hovel?  No.

If it wasn't for the arcade's height and beautiful design - that's all surfaces, floors, walls, ceilings and all inbetween, then it would have more vacancies and more hoodies spitting on the floor. Then the shopping centre would be abandoned. Then the owner would keep it boarded up for 15 years whilst he saved his money and worked out what to do. By then the hoodies would have grown up and be running rent-free businesses in the arcade breaking people's legs. Then the owner will abandon it. Then it will fall down, causing derilication in the street. Then no businesses will want to open in the neighbourhood. Then other landlords in the street will avoid their maintenance - why shouldn't they?  Then existing businesses will get fed up and eventually leave.  Then the city will become deserted, allowing blight, crime and disease to thrive. Then we will all die.

There. So, if you don't want to die, build tall shops.

Below: Babushkas: 3.40m (11'2") tall to the top of the window frameBelow: Royal Arcade, 10.97m high (36')

It's a sign 2

Once upon a time I was walking along Market Street.  It was early morning - about 6.30am.  The air and atmosphere was wonderful as the city was waking up.

I saw a man.  He was a painter-man. He was a sign painter man - probably the last one on earth.

He had - by hand - drawn the most beautiful graphic upon a shop facia you would ever hope to see.

He then begin to paint it in by hand with a $1,000 brush which hugged every border.  It was astonishing so I gave him my questions.

He said that he was a full time signwriter (by hand).  He said that computerisation was killing him off.

Well, he's long gone now, and so is his sign on Market Street.

I like old hand painted signs but they don't do them anymore.  Yes they fade and yes they need maintenance but they give a patina which is pleasant.

Signs tacked on with a sheet of tin not only give you the lettering of the business but also a large rectangular backplate.  Direct lettering means there is less unnecessary or non-essential elements forming part of the picture.

Most shopping centres have signage which is three dimensional - the letters are tacked on one by one to spell the business name.  This avoids the 'big backplate' issue.

The below picture is indicative of the change in retail design materials over the years.  The building is a Class A heritage one, but I can see the old signage hasn't been restored (even if it is only a 1980s sign).

Signage is something that slips through the net at most local governments.  But there's so much to gain from high quality signage that some guidance and/or regulation will give a beautiful effect throught the city.

Shopping centres know this - high quality signage is a must there.

Film and Television Institute (WA) Inc, 92 Adelaide Street, Fremantle, Australia (Cantonment Street frontage)


Run, don't walk, to New Edition bookshop now

Imagine the best bookshop in the southern hemisphere, according to Tim Rogers.

Then imagine incorporating a brilliantly designed espresso bar on a sub-lease - The Grumpy Sailor.  This is a difficult feat including many headaches with all the landlord negotiations and council approvals.  Thank goodness the City of Fremantle gives permissions to high quality retail design and street activation.

Lastly, place a fashion shop in the rear of the huge bookshop.  The result is Velvet Sushi who now occupies the former bank safe and sells high quality fashion and accessories whilst the hubbub of the espresso and bookworming goes on all around.

Other cities and shopping centre managers - run, don't walk, to Velvet Sushi now and suck it up.

Deborah McKendrick in Velvet Sushi, 82 High Street, Fremantle, Australia