Shopping is one of my least favourite occupations and yet I’ve been thinking about it this week.

I visited our local mall that nearly fell down in the last earthquake back in November. Much of it was demolished afterwards but it is, of course, ”back in business”, for better or worse. Other local malls are due to be closed, or likely turned into retirement homes, not from the earthquake damage but lack of business. I was there for the opticians, busy as anything, no wonder with two pairs for the price of one! Though I’ve got to wait two weeks for the business hub in Melbourne to deliver and I suspect they might be serviced by a market even further away. Are service based sales the future of malls? My wife talks about a mall down in Christchurch advertising itself in the 70’s by declaring “it’s warm in Hornby Mall”, clearly signalling to their demographic back then.

I also visited the new Kmart in Petone as its near our office and causing traffic jams. I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I left with my wallet intact and my question unanswered. I managed to sidestep punters with trolleys laden with goods they clearly could not do without. I could only marvel at $48 bag-less vacuum cleaners, how is that possible to ship it here from China for that much? No wonder the pressure continues to build on landfill sites. Kmart is opposite Countdown supermarket, a hop skip from other big box retailers, Bunnings, Rebel Sport, Briscoes and others. There’s no need for the mall or the High Street but then any person vaguely clued up in e-commerce will tell you – there’s no need for either.

I played squash with a young fellow this morning. He works at NZ Post head office and told me that unlike letter delivery the parcel and small packet part of their business is going gang-busters. All due to e-commerce be it local or international. The levels of business in these middle months is as high as it was in November and December which are of course the key months due to Christmas. They’re concentrating now on how they’ll cope with this year’s Christmas volume.

Earlier in the week I visited Unity bookshop in central Wellington. It is clearly the best bookshop in town and was busy and buzzy at mid-morning. So are the boutique specialist shops going to survive? The business model of bookshops who are basically stocked at the expense of publishers and vicariously writers, is definitely flawed. It’s the same as art galleries, stocked very generously by the artists they promote. After Unity I discovered I was parked outside a florist and went in to buy flowers for my wife – as you do – or at least as I do – every now and then.

The first job I ever had that I needed to wear a suit for was as a traveling salesman selling pottery vases from the family business to department stores, tourist shops and florists. I tore around the UK in a Ford Escort, learning to talk and learning to listen. I did quite well for a spotty, lanky (yes, I was back then) 18-year-old. I suspect I played the pity card quite well. My point though is that florist shops smell the same now as they did then. There’s an earthy quality, it’s not just the blooms which tend to blend with the vegetation and the compost. It might be the only thing that hasn’t changed in nearly forty years of retailing – the smell of the florist.

 

*** clearly shopping is a bigger part of my life than I care to admit. Here is a previous blog/poem about it. My good mate Joe reckoned it was the best thing I’d ever written.

 

 

Pete Carter is all over the place. He writes and takes photographs and runs an art rental business. He lives in Eastbourne in New Zealand with a wife (an artist) and two dogs, they have two grown up children, one lives in Bristol and the other in Sydney. Two books of poetry and prose are out and he has written a children's book by mistake that will be published in February 2017. This book as illustrated by his nephew. There is also a novel that rightly has not yet seen the light of day. He has had magazine articles published and poetry in anthologies. As a photographer he has had two solo exhibitions and work included in group exhibitions in NZ and overseas and has sold his work to corporate clients.

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