Just read a fascinating post from one of my favorite European urban spaces sites, Metropolitique, on the use of social activities and cultural visuals at holiday time in shopowners “retailtainment” events. I had some random thoughts that relate to markets and placemaking to share after reading it:
The writers make the point that even in this day of e-commerce, these physical “distractions” at holiday time are meaningful to so many. I remember my trips to downtown Cleveland to share my list with Santa and to see the decorations around Public Square in the 1960s. You can see some of my hometown holiday memories in the movie “A Christmas Story” which filmed there, although I was never shoved down the slide by an angry Santa like Ralphie.
Interestingly, within the iconic Cleveland department store Higbees that is shown in the movie, there was a “Twigbee” shop that was a child-sized tent/area of low-priced goods to “shop” for parents and siblings but it was really more of a way to create some shopping entertainment for kids so the parents could sneak away and shop for gifts. I almost recreated Twigbees within the fair trade holiday market we ran in New Orleans for 5 years, “Festivus, the Holiday Market for the Rest of Us” but never got around to designing that before ending it in 2007.
Actually, Festivus was a great example of this retailtainment idea, as we had many non-shopping activities including the “Airing of the Grievances” and the “Trade a Skill” corner.
here’s an excerpt from the post:
To attract consumers by offering a distraction, department stores have not only established the Santa Claus parade, they also used their windows like theater scenes to create stories with dolls, mannequins and any decor around a theme. Similarly, small traders, often together in an association, decorate their windows while funding in part the decoration of the neighborhood. They also go up promotional operations, resulting in a more or less long-term the busy downtown district. The cities themselves seek to take advantage of this festive time when installing or touting their Christmas markets.
The best example of the holiday retailtainment in the US these days is most likely the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in NYC, but almost all cities use decorations along main streets and in their shopping areas to draw people in and the benefits are likely significant to the shops and probably for the cities themselves as residents rate their satisfaction partially based on these quality of life events.
Certainly among market types, “boutique/niche” markets have trader territories and could benefit from deeper linkages to the shops and heritage sites around them. I could see Santa runs starting from December markets or holiday decoration craft corners at markets and so on…
Additionally in this piece, I appreciated the definition of the Main Street versus the European square. In many cases, farmers markets in the US were set up to resemble those European squares and in others, to retain more of the characteristics of a Main Street:
The main street in North America is emblematic of the city: it is a foundation, but it also has a high social and cultural force since it is often perceived as the street along which would meet each new wave of immigrants. Indeed, while European cities were built around squares, North American cities were built along the main street, the axes of peri-central neighborhoods still largely identified as ethnic neighborhoods, leading to it.
Finally, this is an important detailed definition to consider for boutique/niche markets or even flagship markets to consider:
*Traders territories are more or less widespread territorial units consist of trade places: shopping centers together under one roof shopping malls, recreational activities and a fairly wide range of restoration; central areas of cities, with the natural unit defines a course combining heritage and shopping – department stores are connected by a footpath winding through the shopping areas, along which are highlighted remarkable facades of long-established stores. Traders territories and form a symbolic system by referring to cultural references (architecture, urban planning, etc.) and serve as spatial cues, social and cultural. In the case of distractive territories, architecture and the use of heritage references , cinematographic or bookish must foster with clients more or less extensive the entertainment sensation . They are meaningful to consumers attending, for the staging of the place, sometimes the dramatization of the site and product mix allowing everyone (resident, visitor, tourist) to know that he is indeed in a space dedicated to the valuation of a territory, an event, a lifestyle.
Happy Holidays everyone.