7. Shopping Patterns

  1. The Look of the Area in 1946
  2. Demographic Change
  3. Planning the New Suburb
  4. The Pattern of Subdivision
  5. Education and Community Facilities
  6. Industry
  7. Shopping Patterns
  8. Roads and Perennial Roadworks
  9. Reafforestation
  10. Endnotes

In the past, every rail station in the City of Monash had its shopping centre, however small, where shops fronted onto the street. As car ownership and traffic increased, shoppers often struggled to find somewhere to park. Oakleigh is the biggest and the oldest of these traditional centres and it has survived despite the proximity of Chadstone.

Virtually from the day Chadstone opened in 1960, Victoria's first drive-in shopping centre, but not the first in Australia - shopkeepers in traditional centres complained and feared for their livelihoods. Their careers since have been a continual process of adapting to the changes in shopping patterns that were led by/driven by the drive-in centres.

Drive-in shopping centres were not built initially for a society that drove everywhere. Women were overwhelmingly the shoppers' and still are. Generally they took second place in the queue for the car, even when households had one. Parking problems at the city centre stores may have been on Myers mind when he built Chadstone, but the American model that this was the way of the future was almost certainly as important. As Beverley Kingston pointed out in her history of Australian shopping, in the 1960s 'only a minority of Australian families as yet had a second car and public transport was crucial to the success of a shopping centre.'[50] In the same vein, Peter Spearitt notes that driving instructors were prepared to pick up 'housewife pupils' at Chadstone, so they could drive home with the shopping.[51] Monash students have been known to do the same. Drive-in shopping centres, like drive-in universities, tended to push driving lessons and the purchase of a car up the list of priorities of those who used them.

Chadstone's success was instant and sustained and as a result its imitators were many. The pattern of building housing estates and shopping centres together was not uncommon, examples in Waverley being Pinewood and Brandon Park. However, the quintessential Waverley shopping centre is perhaps The Glen, where a drive-in was grafted onto the traditional rail station based shops. Appropriately, it was at one stage owned and developed by Jennings.

What is perhaps most interesting about shopping in the City of Monash in the 1990s is not the proliferation and growth of drive-in centres, but that many of the rail station based centres have also survived and grown. Lower overheads allow shop keepers who do not have the capital required for a shopping centre site to go into business. This allows traditional shopping centres to reflect the tastes and specialist requirements of their customers in a more flexible way. While the range of shops in the drive-in shopping centres is more or less constant right across greater Melbourne, the street based shopping centres display enormous local variety.

In 1996 Clayton shopping centre, for instance, had shop signs in a range of languages, including Vietnamese, Malaysian, Chinese and Greek and the video store offered shelves full of international movies in their original languages. Oakleigh shopping centre, too, reflected the fact that half the locals weren't born in Australia. Greek, Italian and Chinese were all important languages in the area and in 1991 less than half the locals spoke only English at home. By the 1990s, Oakleigh's tight grid of small shopping streets, mix of retailers, traffic restrictions and covered market had an almost European feel.

Outside the drive-in shopping centres, drive-in shopping of a rather different kind also developed in Monash. Some specialist retailers needed large, low cost sites with good car access because they were selling items that could not be carried away in the customer's hand. Cars and petrol came into this category but so, increasingly did furniture.

Petrol stations were among the earliest signals of this type of drive-in retailing. From at least the 1950s they congregated at major intersections, commonly in opposing pairs. Along the major roads linking them came used car yards, hardware stores, motels, furniture warehouses and retailers of new and used car parts. Springvale Road and Dandenong Road in particular featured this type of strip shopping, which attracted specialist shopping trips from a wide area.

Traditionally, crossroads were also the site for 'local' shops, the kind you walked to for milk and papers. The increasingly car based population saw a decline in the prosperity of these kinds of shops. Parking space and car accessibility became all important. Even where there were a few parking spaces, getting out of and back into the busy flow of traffic discouraged customers who were just after a bottle of milk.

From the late 1970s, the owner operated corner stores and milk bars began to lose business to the 'convenience stores', each a part of a major international chain. The difference was easy car based access and capital. In 1977, Australia's first 7 Eleven convenience store opened on the corner of Warrigal and Barkly roads in Oakleigh.[52] Marketing developments during the 1980s and 1990s saw a proliferation of convenience stores, where customers could buy petrol and an increasing range of food and stationery at premium prices 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Customers were also able to buy an increasing range of goods without getting out of their cars. The influence was American and many of the companies who specialised in this kind of retailing were American or followed American models. Petrol was, appropriately, early on the list, followed by movies. However, neither fashion illustrates an inexorable trend towards staying in the car. Labour costs and technological changes saw many petrol stations become self-service during the 1970s. Drive-in cinemas, the height of fashion in the 1960s, began to lose business during the 1970s. The Clayton drive-in on the corner opposite the university closed in the mid -1980s, although the drive-in south of Clayton hung on longer.

Other sorts of drive-ins became fashionable in the 1980s with fast food joining alcohol as items that could be purchased without even turning off the car engine, let alone getting out of the car. In 1971, Victoria's first McDonalds restaurant opened on the southeast corner of Springvale and High Street Roads. The company won the right to build against considerable local opposition and the planning regulations, taking their case through the courts at great expense.[53] The landscape of Monash was significantly influenced by these kinds of retailers. Fast food outlets with their preference for prominent main road sites and large signage also began to feature landscaping that emphasised the company identity, whatever the suburb. From the late 1980s, the same preference for highly coloured, low maintenance shrubs and cloned landscape designs appeared along major roads allover Melbourne's suburbs.

Retailing is big business and the trend since 1945 has been for the concentration of ownership of many retail outlets into the hands of major national and international chains. The overall impact of both the drive-in shopping centres and strip retailing along major roads has been to make the public face of suburbs increasingly uniform.

It is the older railway station based shopping centres, which express the local individuality of Monash. Clayton and Huntingdale are not the same as Oakleigh and all three are very different from Mount Waverley or Syndal or Glen Waverley.

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Last updated: 11 October 2016