The hoarding at King’s Boulevard is currently making a bold claim – that the retail there will be “As far from a mall experience as it’s possible to be.” We’re pretty curious as to what that might amount to.
What would, in fact, be the farthest away from a mall experience? Local cornershops, home delivery or a burnt out Poundland come to our minds. However we should probably assume that none of these things will feature in this scheme.
What they actually mean is this: “Half a million square feet of retail space is available in this new city quarter – everything from quirky, independent boutiques to top-end high street brands. There’ll also be an exciting food and drink scene.”
For the developers at King’s Cross quirkiness and independence are natural remedies for the shopping mall experience, which presumably we should infer is not a desirable one. Judging from the trompe l’oeil brown paper bag that the initial claim featured on, we might add “authenticity” to their list of talismanic buzzwords.
We doubt that this Machiavellian appeal to independence, quirk and authenticity – instigated in one of London’s biggest regeneration schemes – can live up to its ambitions. This is an instance of the commercial world disguising its intentions. Such a vast retail enclave could only ever appear to be different to a mall through a trick of the eye. And this game of camouflage is a dangerous game for any brand to play with, as Toyota recently discovered to their detriment in the gentrifiers paradise of Brixton.
We would be lying if we pretended that we here at Added Value were not connoisseurs of the independent shop, the quirky boutique, or the authentic brewer. We’d also be lying if we said that this somehow elevated us above a kind of brute commercialism, the “mall experience” that we are supposed to revile.
A business should not sneer at the mainstream, the commercial or the glossy. They should turn down the offer of the Emperor’s new clothes and behave like the businesses they are. It is true that consumers have become super aware of the shortcomings of big business; however they will not respond well to pretence – rather openness and clarity will win them back.
Independence and authenticity are laudable, but harp on too much about them and however small you are you will risk becoming undone. Genuine independence is respected not for the fact of its small scale and quirkiness – but because they are more often than not earnest, open, and proud of what they are. Turning against the “mall experience” is the post-recessionary equivalent of green-wash – twee-wash if you will.