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Retail – by Justyna

4 Dec

I’m going to briefly let you in on a new retail phenomenon that is taking part in post-commie Poland. The word for a shopping centre in Polish is ‘galeria’ (national art galleries are called museums). And the phenomenon concerns the Polish female mall-rat, the ‘galerianka’. On face value she may appear quite similar to her American or Australian counterpart, a fourteen to seventeen year old mindlessly wandering from shop to shop with her friends slurping on her McDonald’s milkshake, but wearing something inappropriately tight and revealing for her age. Looking closer there is a major difference to her in that she has an agenda. And the agenda is to find an older sap who she will give head or a hand job to and who will then go and buy her a nice trinket or new mobile phone as a return for the favour. Usually these dirty men are in their late thirties and forties, married and with enough to lose to fall for the galerianka’s threats of reporting them the authorities should they refuse to buy them the desired product. This phenomenon has been widely written about with various documentaries made on the subject as well as a movie.

Funnily enough most of the commentary and public opinion about it has refrained from what I would deem as an appropriate descriptive word, prostitution. Reports tend to mask this tragic occurrence by referring to the behaviour as sexual favours granted by young girls in exchange for consumer goods. The latest Zara bag for a blow job in a shopping centre toilet is somewhat more acceptable than the criminal offense of 60 bucks for the same in a remote highway parking lot.

Retail – by Karen

2 Dec

There is a new mall opening soon at the bottom of our street. I thought it would make a good blog post if Richard and I broke into it and posted pictures of our rampage on the Internet. Then I remembered that I am a responsible parent, living in Singapore.

It has been argued that Singapore is in fact one giant shopping mall, which should make my post on this topic the most expert. Unfortunately, however, I’ve been living in Asia for over six years now, so I almost cannot perceive malls, let alone have insights about them.

In developed Asian nations, malls are part of the fabric of life in a way you couldn’t really appreciate without living here. Fine dining restaurants are in malls. Children play in malls. You take your constitutional in a mall.

Singaporeans (and expats alike) love the opening of a new mall. “What do you want to do this weekend?” we ask one another. “Are there any new malls opening?”

Much as I love the tiny strips of boutiques in Haji Lane, Ann Siang Hill, or (these days) Tiong Bahru,  it must be admitted that these are not an authentic representation of the common Singaporean retail experience. And when you factor in humidity, children and Korean sizing, they don’t make up a large proportion of my scanty retail experience.

There is one retail hub, however, that checks all the boxes – it is “authentic”, it is ghetto, it is air-conditioned, it is magnificent: it is The Mustafa Centre. I really should have written this post about the  Mustafa Centre, complete with photos, but I don’t feel equal to the task. I am convinced that you can buy any retail item at Mustafa centre, from a salwar kameez to a chocolate merlion. You may suffer from claustrophobia, agoraphobia (literally, fear of the market), liveseafoodnexttomuttonentrailsphobia, or simply get lost. But you will find some representative of your desired retail category, and much more besides.

Since I have no photos of my own, I will share with you some of the baffling choices tourists and locals make when attempting to capture the ineffable.

Yes, they have jam. That was the best you could do?

I mean, what about the Bollywood snacks?

"Hey guys! Here's a photo of me in front of the meat counter."

"So many hot sauces! This is truly an Asian adventure. Glad I wore my bandana today."

"See, I don't just take a photo of myself infront of the Ganeshes. I get my girlfriend to hold up this little mirror, with my reflection! In front of the Ganeshes!!"

This blogger has captioned this one herself: "Btw, Mustafa is a crazy place man.. Freaking scary.. Cuz they have everything there.. E.g: If u wanna look for handbags, Mustafa have at least 20 to 30 brands there..Which means u can get everyhing there.." - Credit goes to blogger "when one meet another" - http://ventz-tang.blogspot.com/2008/05/singapore-trip-day-one-part-two.html

They also sell very good dates.

Retail therapy – by Tabitha

30 Nov

In Vietnam, there’s not very much for us to buy. We buy food and drinks, and flowers for the house, and toiletries, and that’s about it.

We can’t fit into most clothes here, so clothes shopping is out. We don’t want to amass too many knick-knacks or household items which we’d just have to get rid of, or ship, so we don’t buy these either. The post is too unreliable, so we can’t buy online. We spend money on travel, and eating (and at the moment, the wedding), but we just don’t really buy stuff.

When we pass through a city that has malls, we try to stock up on clothes and books and shoes. While malls certainly hold more appeal to me now – through sheer novelty – than they did two years ago, it’s not very fun going shopping because you have to and buying only the things you need.

I used to be a firm believer in retail therapy. Browsing shops on King Street was a regular pastime of mine, not from a need for new things, but because I really enjoyed poking around, seeing what’s in store, and buying things I liked. Now that this option doesn’t exist, I don’t really miss it, and yet I am 100% sure that I’ll return to retail therapy with a vengeance as soon as it becomes available to me again.

This is infuriating. Buying stuff just because it’s there is the sort of mindless consumerism which I’ve always loved to loathe, but it turns out that’s exactly what I do. I always thought that because I bought mostly nice, hand-made things from local shops, that I was somehow a cut above the consumers who buy brand-name handbags and jeans so expensive they’re chained to the rack. But it’s all the same mentality: whether it’s a Hermes bag or a hand-knitted scarf, you wouldn’t buy them – you already have more than enough bags and scarves – if they weren’t dangled before your eyes by window-dressers or Esty store-owners who know exactly how to lure you in.

I don’t know what the conclusion of all this is. That I doubt I’ll change as a result of my retail-free stint in Vietnam, but will instead just be filled with self-loathing every time I buy a new skirt? I think I also need to accept that I get around Hanoi looking like a massive dag most of the time, so my fashion “needs” here are significantly less than in Australia. All I know is that when I read about Australian consumer spending, I blanch at the thought of going home.

Retail by Beth

28 Nov

I’m tired, so I’ll make this brief.

I’m partly tired because I keep staying up late every night working on two books that I finally finished last night. They are relevant to today’s topic of retail because the possibility of making your own professional-looking version of anything you want is, I think, the best thing to have happened to retail in my lifetime.

I’ve made them both pre-viewable so you can have a look. First one is called Who’s Afraid of the Dark? and it’s a book my mum wrote years ago and got my grandmother to illustrate. It’s never been printed before (we just had the original watercolours, so it’s been pretty exciting to play with her images and my mum’s text). Felt like having a conversation between the three of us even though my grandmother died almost 20 years ago.

Second one is an ABC book for Leo. It’s full of in-jokes and all the stuff he’s into.

This is how the living room looked after the final shoot for the back pages with all the objects.

I also feel compelled to mention that between Jeff and I we do a hell of a lot of online shopping. I order our fruit and vegies online and I “win” a lot of stuff on eBay. Jeff disagrees that this is an accurate representation of the transaction seeing as I still have to pay money to the person I “win” the item off. Etsy is a guilty pleasure, and the other day I couldn’t get to the Made590 sale (it’s a suburb away), so I ordered stuff online from them. I am officially their biggest fan. We also seem to single handedly keep Better World Books in business.