Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Myer Melbourne. Can a renovation save it?

Anyone who has walked through Myer Melbourne in recent times can't help but notice that the place is drastically changing, almost every day. But is it a change for the better, or the last desperate fight for survival?

For me, the rot set in quite some time back, when the 6th floor Lonsdale closed to the public. You can't get up there any more. It used to be the toy department, which has since moved to the Bourke street store. (For any non-Melbournian reading this, Myer Melbourne is split into two stores, Bourke and Lonsdale Street, separated by Little Bourke Street and a three level pedestrian bridge).

This to me was a sign that Myer was simply giving up. You don't close a whole floor of your flagship department store. The only explanation is that the place isn't profitable, and really it's the beginning of the end.

There are many reasons for this of course. Like it or not, retail shops are on borrowed time, which is sad but unavoidably true, and the obvious explanation why is The Internet. Almost everything you can buy at Myer you can probably buy online cheaper, or at least research an alternative retailer that sells it cheaper. There are a multitude of online retailers that sell everything from underwear to vaccuum cleaners and everything in between. I don't have to leave my house or my desk to make a purchase, and why should I? The only real risk you take is buying something that's the wrong size in case of clothing, or it might look crap on you when it looked fabulous on the online model.

Anyway now, Myer Melbourne has basically moved departments around all over the place, and a large section of the Bourke Street store is closed off on all floors from the basement up as they start the renovation. Once the renovation of Bourke Street is finished, the Lonsdale Street store will close permanently, and then who knows what will happen to it. I predict that the Melbourne Central shopping Centre will expand into it, but that's just a guess.

The thing is, they really don't get it. A renovation is all well and good. Go over to the New Myer Melbourne Site to see what's going on.

They can build a wonderful new store with atriums and escalators and all sorts of things like that but it doesn't solve the underlying problem. Stuff is more expensive here, and the service you get isn't worth the premium you pay for it. The only thing that's keeping Myer afloat is that a large percentage off the population don't realise that there's a better way than going out shopping.

But, sadly for Myer, eventually they will, and even atriums and glass lifts probably won't end up saving them.

In the meantime if you are walking through Myer as I often do, go through the Basement as it's much quicker!

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