Sunday, June 24, 2007

no "shop window"

There is no "shop window" anymore. In the old days, there were shop fronts that had mannequins that had to be dressed up every day or at least once a week.

Now, printing technology allows us to have a large screen in vinyl that has life-size pictures of men and women in just the clothes we aspire for. Lighting technology now allows this screen to have a special accent and to highlight that which must attract us, most hurried customers.

In Bombay, in the 80's, Benzer, the super store happened, at Warden road, which was by then, renamed Bhulabhai Desai road. It was the place to go to shop. There were no malls then. Benzer had a "shop window" It also had a small "landscaped" area at the entrance with sculptural blocks clad in granite stone.

There was an outside to the store and an inside. You stepped in to see what was possible, at what price. Today, in the mall, you often see the whole store from the outside. All the T-shirts racks, all the discounts being offered... It is like having a walk-in closet.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Spencer’s Plaza – the old mall in Chennai

Spencer’s Plaza has always been ‘the new within the old’ – a new building within the memory of an old one. Until Citi Centre opened to the public some months ago, Spencer’s Plaza was “The Mall” of Chennai. There is the atrium with the circular arcade in brick, constructed anew on the old design.
In the malls, the parking space is always your first experience. In the old days, you always walked to the bazaar. Today, you can still walk or take the car to the bazaar. Because it is almost a pedestrianised zone i.e. it is flooded to such an extent with pedestrians and hawkers, nobody takes a car in there. You park in the side lanes in and around the main bazaar streets. There is always a small street nearby which becomes a parking lot.
In Georgetown, you are in one street for clothes, in another for electronic goods. Here, at Spencers' the clothes and the electronics are a shop away from each other and the expensive eateries abound. The spaces are clean. You do not jostle in a crowd. The noise levels are different from the bazaar too. You cannot buy your fresh limesoda or your sugarcane juice here. But, there is the “Fruit shop on Greams Road” outlet which sells ‘Pineapple Mint’ for Rs.40 or the Orange Tangerine for Rs.30. Sugarcane juice in the Bazaar is Rs.3 for half glass and Rs.6 for full glass.
At Spencer’s, you come out of the parking basement into the brick-lined circular atrium, take an escalator up to the shops. It’s a centrally air-conditioned mall – the atrium, the passages, the shops. The maintenance costs are high and the goods always priced high. There are large chain stores like West Side and Music World housed here. There is “sweet corn” and “subway sandwiches”.
And as one of the storefront sign says you “Rediscover yourself”. A mall is just different from a bazaar…

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