I wrote last week about our need to woo visiting shoppers if the Asian Century was to assist our country going forward. That was before it became clear that our continuing move from mining and manufacturing to a service-based economy was accelerating.
Our new government is unlikely to continue to support car manufacturers, or rescind the carbon tax, and has no ability to influence the Australian dollar versus the US dollar to make our production costs more competitive. Oh, and our newly introduced and more inflexible labour laws don’t help either, and our jobless rate grew again.
So walking along Southbank in Melbourne, and through the Crown Casino complex, it was good to see some locals, but it was mainly visitors to our shores spending money. The gaming floor at Crown was by no means full at 9.20pm on a Tuesday evening, but alive and buzzy enough. As I walked through the restaurant areas, the venues were busy, with many diners leaving to walk to the beautiful marble and stainless steel shopping mall attached to Crown, underneath the amazing big gas flares that rise along the waterfront at night.
Paspaley, Hermes, Bulgari and many other top-end stores reside there, much the same range of brands as my previous weeknight shopping in Waikiki. The marked difference though was that the Asian tourists in Melbourne were window shopping.
Not the window shopping you do when you walk past stores, look through the front windows and choose not to go in. Rather, window shopping because the doors were locked, the stores were empty of associates and nobody could sell them the $1500 handbag in the window even if they’d wanted one.
So bars and restaurants were open, but not retail stores. I checked the website and sure enough most restaurants are open until 11pm or later, but all stores closed at 9pm. I have no idea whether this is due to different labour laws delivering rates for bars and restaurants versus retail, even though they are side by side and all form part of our choice to buy or work.
Talking to bar staff I asked whether they had different pay rates for night work, and was told no. It may even be because the landlord or local government prevents the stores being open after 9pm. Or perhaps it’s government policy telling visitors to our country, on different body clocks and with limited holiday time, when and what they can and can’t shop for.
I’ve no idea, and I’m guessing neither do any of the shoppers who had chosen to spend their holidays and money in Australia. They were only looking to shop after dinner, just like we do when we’re on holiday in Asia.
If anybody does know why the shops at Crown were closed, I’d love to know.
CROSSMARK CEO Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores.