Suburban shopping centres and the end of the High Street Dream

Suburban Shopping Centres and the end of the ‘High Street Dream’


From the 1950s the rising number of married women in the workforce began to have an effect on traditional shopping centres. By the 1960s it was clear that shopping habits were changing. People now wanted to shop atwhen it was convenient and consumers were becoming more knowledgeable and demanding about quality and value in everyday items. While shoppers in the 1860s needed the help of a specialist sales person, by the 1960s national sdvertising and mass marketing made for a more informed consumer who could be expected to choose intelligently from the open stock on presentation. The old idea that no matter how valuable the product people must be taught to appreciate itand to buy it no longer applied.

Gradually the great department stores that had once dominated central business districts began to disappear and their places were taken by suburban shopping malls. Reliance on cars as a means of transport made warehouse selling on cheap land in the outer suburbs viable, especially for such bulky items as hardware, whitegoods and furniture.

In 1970 the first of McEwan’s ‘magnet’ discount hardware and timber stores was opened on a four-acre site in the outer Melbourne suburb of Ferntree Gully, with additional stores being established in Thomastown (1972), Eltham (1974), High Point West Shopping Centre (1975), Parkmore Shopping Centre (1975), Corio (1976), Deer Park (1976), Melton (1977), Altona (1978) and Chirnside Park Shopping Centre (1979).

By the 1980s the character of shopping had changed. People may have spent a lot more money than they once did, but they were also spent a lot less time doing it. Shopping  became quite purposeful – something to be dispersed with as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Shopping was less likely to be seen as a social activity where one would stroll about meeting friends, doing a little business, enjoying the passing parade.It seemed that it was only the country people, in town for the day, who might still be able to afford to spend a leisurely day out at the shops.