Rundle Mall Retailer Barlow Shoes

In Conversation with Grundys / Barlow Shoes

  • My family have retailed footwear continuously in Rundle Mall as well as Rundle Street since 1868 (celebrating 150 years in 2018).
  • Our opening hours have changed drastically over the years to cater for weekend and public holiday trading, even though we initially protested the notion to change trading hours.
  • Boxing Day is the BIGGEST day of the year. Since Boxing Day trading was
    introduced it has "gone nuts".
  • We have seen two full repaves and refits of the Mall since it opened; the current one is far better than the previous.
  • The closing of Wendts Jewellers and Balfours has left us as the longest serving traders in the Mall.
  • Unfortunately the Fruit carts have gone and so has Zippy’s snack bar, many ice creams were bought there.
  • Nick Xenophon came into the shop one day looking for some new shoes,
    oblivious to the fact that he had odd shoes on his feet. When I pointed this out he explained that he had dressed in the dark, he was most embarrassed. Maybe politicians really do work long hours.
  • We always saw a lot of cricketers throughout the duration of test matches; I think they must have a thing for shoes, or maybe our beautiful staff!
    I was there when the Mall opened on September 1st 1976, champagne flowed through the fountain while Don Dunstan soaked up the colour.
  • I also remember the day Lord Mayor Henry Ninio decorated the Mall with fresh flowers.
  • When Sunday trading was first introduced I used to bring in my Weber from home and cook a BBQ in the Mall for our lunch. I don’t think I’d try that now!
  • We used to arrive at work some mornings to find a line of people stretching from Allan’s Music, in Gawler Place, all the way around the corner and up the Mall, blocking our shop. Those were the days when people queued for hours to get good seats, now they queue outside Apple for the latest gadget.
  • Anthony LaPaglia worked for a while in Florsheim Shoes, which in those days was next door to us, so we came to know him before he was famous.

Moments

  • A couple of the memorable celebrity appearances have been Boy George, all
    those years ago, on the bridge across from the Renaissance Centre and Guy
    Sebastian also drew a huge crowd, on a VERY hot day.
  • The Friday night before the GST came in was huge. Who would have thought an impending 10% increase would encourage such a buying frenzy. We were not prepared for it!

Customers

  • Feet are getting bigger! When I started working the average Men’s size was 7, now it’s about 9 or 10. Ladies shoe sizes have done the same.
  • There is no doubt customers are now more informed and aware. This has meant that our product knowledge and level of service has also improved.
  • A damaging trend has emerged since the rise of online shopping. Some
    customers try shoes on to get their size with the intention of buying online. This trend has the capacity to make bricks and mortar retailers feel used, competing in the fiercest marketplace we have ever seen.

Challenges

In the Bricks and Mortar world there are two types of businesses, those that offer goods and those that offer services. The retail landscape has drastically changed since the rise of technology; I have noticed that although a shopfront is still important, it is increasingly becoming an advertising tool rather than a revenue stream. We are constantly seeing customers come in store to sample what they can buy online, making it even harder for small businesses to flourish.

Longevity

Stick to what you know. The retail landscape is littered with companies that have ventured into areas they know little about. If you are in unfamiliar territory, get some advice from a professional, that’s their area of expertise, mine is selling shoes. Know your customer. Set your shop up to please them, not you, or anyone else.

CBD Co-operation

This is a tough one, as unlike a shopping centre, no one can control the tenancy mix in the Mall, which is of course, what makes Rundle Mall so unique. I think the best opportunity for co-operation would be for Mall property owners to make their buildings’ upper floors available cheaply for start ups like restaurants and bars which would bring new economy into the Mall. These upper floors are typically underutilised at the moment as nearly all the value is in the ground floor tenancy.

40 years on

Physically, I don’t think the Mall will change much in the next 20 years, we’ve just had a major re-furb. Beyond that there will be works that may include a children’s play space, parking for jet packs, interactive screens pointing you to the product you want, the possibilities really are endless. I think the tenancy mix will continue to evolve in favour of services/technology as it has been doing for some time. There will still be a place for retail stores, there’s nothing like spending an afternoon wandering around Rundle Mall.