Over the past few years Melbourne’s retail scene hasn’t just had a facelift, it has been reimagined into a world class shopping metropolis. In the leadup to Christmas, millions of Melburnians are expected to spend billions of dollars. To celebrate our spending and the extended shopping hours (9pm every night until 24 December) the big seven in retail (the seven families maybe…) took us on a tour. Melbourne Girl, The World Loves Melbourne and yours truly, The Plus Ones, were given the keys to the city for a day of exploration and experiences!
Our chaperone for the evening, Katie Sheppet from Porter Novelli, wanted to keep a few surprises in store — so we weren’t privy to the full itinerary. We were warned that it would be full on: seven locations over nine hours. (It turned out the be 12!) Let’s be honest: this was daunting to me. I rarely go to large shopping centres. I’m a guy, I rarely shop. It would have been a double rainbow and unicorn type of dream event for Theresa but her family were visiting and she was out of town! Well, as we always say at The Plus Ones, try things you normally don’t…
City Square – We started our journey at 9:30am at City Square. The City of Melbourne has converted City Square, renamed Christmas Square, into a Christmas wonderland until 25 December. If you want to take amazing Christmas photos, this is the place to do it. Santa and the elves (sadly no Arwen or Legolas) are there of course, ready to spread cheer to the naughty and nice. From 10am the kids are lining up and the wonder in their eyes warms even the steeliest of Christmas grinches (me).
Melbourne Central – The centre’s Marketing Manager, Angela, helped us explore Melbourne Central. I have fond memories of Melb Central as a high school kid. This was the ‘secret’ meet-up point for awkward dates and dining in the food court. Things have changed a touch since then and not just the awkward dates. There’s a Kiehls and very recently MAC Cosmetics opened up in-house. Our blogger friends and their +1s knew Kheil’s, I didn’t. This was to be a constant theme throughout the day! Go here just to experience Old Musk, oh-em-gee! I think I have a new favourite fragrance and spent half the day smelling my wrist to get a whiff of the good stuff (it lasted 12 hours). Then it was time for our makeovers at MAC My make-up artist, Jane, explained to me that my three step routine should be beauty balm, prep and prime highlighter and fast response eye cream. For that special occasion I could also use extended play lash defining eyelash mascara. (Today was a special occasion.) The team at MAC run make-up courses regularly and you can also just drop in.
The Strand Melbourne – The last time I was here was for a pop-up taco experience pre-renovation. Post-renovation and the place is gleaming! Desigual is worth the visit just to see the ceiling: it’s thousands of glass jars. I really like this place. In some ways it is the anthesis to Melbourne. In your face and colour, lots of colour. I’ll be back when the men’s range is shipped over from Barcelona. Clare, The Strand Melbourne’s Marketing Manager, led us over to Brow Theory next door where I saw the art of threading first hand. I considered getting mine done, but I think a hedge trimmer is required for these bad boys. Outside in the laneway (which they expect to turn into another Melbourne gem) is Cacao. Now that I know this place exists my waist is going to get a workout. I loved their hands on experiential style and will be back for a date or two. [Edit from Theresa: With the same girl, Ruki?]
Emporium Melbourne – you can walk across to Emporium Melbourne via The Strand Melbourne. The team have set up a neat ‘bell hop’ concept with refresh stations and lolly trollies throughout the floors to keep shoppers in good spirits. (I wish these were around when I was a kid!) Everyone knows Emporium as an architectural marvel and for the fine dining restaurants that make up its food court. Tanya, Emporium’s Marketing Manager, made sure that we were treated for lunch with Jimmy Grants, Charlie & Co, Pho Nom, Thr1ve and Pommery doing their best to get our Santa bellies to full girth.
I mentioned that I don’t shop a lot but I have one guilty pleasure, cool socks. These are the one thing that I love. Declic has you covered at Emporium and its sock wall of colour had me in my element.
Myer – the team has set up a fantastic Christmas experience. As usual, Myer’s Christmas windows were in full splendour. Next year is the 60th anniversary and planning has already begun! This year the story is one that’s familiar to even me, Santa Claus and the three polar bears. Someone was worried that having to look at the Christmas windows would break me but I must say I kinda enjoyed them! Marine, my +1 for the day, was blown away by the Giftorium. The team at Myer has converted the entire top level of its CBD store into a Christmas playground and Jade, Myer’s Fashion & Lifestyle Specialist, gave us the full treatment. Santa is there, there’s a train and magicians. The experience is special and the kids were clearly loving it. I, on the other hand, perched up at the Dilmah tea bar and knocked back some samples of the ‘very rare’ blend which retails for $100 a box! Oh and did I mention that you can get personalised Miss/Mr covers…
H&M at Melbourne’s GPO – this is another place that contains fond memories for me but from uni rather than high school. Specifically, the night club – L2 – that it converted itself into in the wee hours. The restoration cost $8 million before H&M opened its doors. It is beautifully designed and special effort has been made to keep the original vision for the interior. Above H&M we also discovered a new space, a beautiful balcony, Alto, which can be used for events. If you follow The Plus Ones, you know how much we love finding hidden gems!
David Jones – we were treated at DJs. Volkan, DJ’s Regional Manager, had his team at the ready. DJs has a personal shopping suite for those of us that are time poor or just want to escape the hustle and bustle. A private shopping suite! Why has no one told me this before?! There is no minimum spend for the suite and bookings can be made online but it feels exclusive. (Side note: I always want to shop like this.) Essentially, a range of items are selected by your stylist and brought into the suite whilst you sip on a beverage and sit in reclined comfort. Mel, my stylist, took me on a wander through the men’s section. She quickly found out I didn’t know much, but picked up on a few clues and was able to point me to a selection of shirts with cool prints on them. Credit to Volkan (who has been at DJs for 19 years!) and the team for picking up on our mood and having the flexibility to match the afternoon to it. I guess picking up on subtleties is their speciality.
QV Melbourne – the laneways of QV Melbourne provide a different shopping experience (and no, not just the experience of being in a hurricane when it’s windy). Sarah, QV’s Marketing Manager, mentioned that they are actual laneways listed in the Melways and Google Maps. I like that they allow Melburnians to experience outdoor shopping which is unique for what is essentially a shopping centre. This year I have enjoyed the QV team’s innovative thinking through unique experiences held in the square. Theresa and I attended the launch of QV Tropical and loved what they did with the Greenhouse. Until 25 March the square will be filled with a twilight market which is chock full of local Melbourne designers, 40 to be precise. There’s music to be enjoyed and cocktails flow. The market runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Phew! It was an incredible day and an experience that not many get. As someone who doesn’t shop too often I enjoyed experiencing the unique atmosphere of each centre and appreciated the effort respective teams put into creating their Christmas experience. I also loved meeting business owners and local managers to discuss the inspiration behind their wares. Dare I say it, I actually had fun shopping. Although after twelve hours the phrase ‘shop till you drop’ had new meaning for me. As I collapsed into bed I made a cardinal sin…
…going to bed with my makeup on.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Porter Novelli. A big thank you to Katie Sheppet for organising, shepherding and generally putting up with a bunch of rowdy bloggers over an epic day!