There were things about the seasonal commercial activity that were different this year. Over time we have drifted from the culture of small, downtown stores crammed to capacity with shoppers fully prepared to cope with the discomfiting downside of Christmas shopping to a handful of more spacious, better-appointed, multi-storeyed shopping malls, laid out to accommodate larger numbers of boutique-type stores, with open spaces and cafeterias thrown in for good measure.
The architectural transformation of the shopping culture has changed the tradition of Christmas shopping. New architectural offerings like the ‘twin towers’ that sit on opposite sides of Regent and Camp streets and the more recent Giftland Mall are leaders in the multi-million-dollar private sector investments in taking shopping to another level. Not that the traditional cramped downtown retail stores have not retained their place in the seasonal shopping culture, but the truth is that the investments of what one might call the ‘heavy hitters’ have changed the game completely.
What might loosely be described as ‘comfort shopping’ was very much in vogue this Christmas. Giftland Mall, for example, was a pleasing example of shopping at leisure, a striking example of what has been (and still is) the extended wait to have bolts of fabric rolled out to measure then cut any number of yards for Christmas curtains.
Visits to malls these days are leisurely family events. People dress themselves and their children and make for these cavernous shopping facilities that offer refreshments that go beyond a Cranwater purchased from a roadside vendor. The ‘show off’ malls, these days, offer well-appointed restaurants that boast offerings ranging from coffee and a scone to meals comprising several courses to be enjoyed in what, sometimes, is a fairly impressive level of comfort.
In essence, this year, Christmas shopping extended itself behind the pleasing crush that it used to be. These days, the significantly upgraded architecture and the attendant facilities seemed to turn the past few days into a special event. People had dressed themselves up and apart from seeing about their acquisitions were taking full advantage to the exalted environment offered by the malls.
So preoccupied the visitors to the malls seemed to be with the ambience of the surroundings that it became impossible to evaluate the volume of sales and in the wider scheme of things that did not seem to matter much. It was the transformation in the culture of Christmas shopping that mattered. People appeared excited rather than anxious, relaxed rather than jittery.
Up to yesterday people were still making ‘pilgrimages’ to the malls, taking advantage of the respite from pavements packed like sardines with the endless throngs and where pickpockets have a field day. Perhaps all of this makes for better commerce. It certainly makes for a much better feeling.