If it’s permissible for a bloke to get emotional about a store then allow me.
Some 15 years ago my first job in my newly adopted country was at Myer where I spent an action packed 2 years heading up their marketing team.
Although that certainly doesn’t qualify me for a long-service gold watch, it was long enough for me to be bitten by some form of bug that still circulates in my bloodstream.
My GP assured me it was a form of mild Myeritis – a chronic condition suffered by many employees of Myer – both past and present.
Anxiously Googling the symptoms I discovered that half of Australians have a similar affliction.
If you have raised blood pressure, night sweats, palpitations and occasional feelings of affection followed by anxiety attacks – you probably have Myeritis too. It seems to infect many people who have at one time or another worked for Myer – and that’s a big number.
Shortly after picking the bug I was confronted with one of the most challenging tasks in my marketing role – getting to grips with the Myer brand personality.
I can clearly recall the consumer research at the time that personified the Myer brand as a middle aged woman of great character, likeable, like the woman next door, with good bone structure but is in need a nip and tuck – someone that anyone could relate to regardless of their demographic.
I can also clearly recall my colleagues who had many more years of Myer experience than I, talking about the dream project – fixing Myer Bourke Street.
According to Myer folk lore this historic site was one of a handful of great old ladies in the world of great department stores of immense size and located in the centre of major cities. At 100,000 square metres Myer Melbourne rubbed shoulders with Galleries Lafayette, Takashimya, Harrods, Macy’s, Selfridges,Kadeve and a handful of other stores that had become the biggest department stores in the world in the hey-day of the industry.
Giving the Myer brand a nip and tuck was attempted by numerous management teams with varying degrees of success – but the dream project – rebuilding Myer Bourke St – was to elude them until the new private equity owners acquired the business and Bernie Brookes arrived on the scene.
As I walked, for the first time, through the redeveloped Myer Bourke Street store I knew that my Myeritis was back again.
I loved the fact that this project, which many see as a once-in-a-lifetime event, was finally completed – and yes it was more than a nip and tuck. I loved the fact that our team at RED was a part of the project and had designed the youth basement ( our second version).
Our team also designed my favourite area – the colourful kids department on Level 3 – alongside our new design for women’s intimate-wear department on the same floor.
RED also had the job to plan and coordinate the new cosmetics destination on the ground floor which has been extended to become one of the top ‘doors’ in the world of international word of department stores.
I loved the fact that despite all the experts, department stores are still alive and well – at least this one!
I loved the fact that of 4 directors at RED three of us had worked at Myer at some time or another and here we were working with the great brand again. Rob Ovcaric and Darren Hose were members of the Myer in-house design team some years ago and learned many of their planning skills under the tutelage of ‘Mo’ – otherwise known as Mohammed Mansour – the revered head of store design at Myer.
I had great memories of the late Harry Le Grand – the visionary VM head of VM at Myer during my time there – and wondered what words of wisdom he would have had on Opening Day.
So I didn’t really mind that my heart rate was up a bit and that I felt a bit dizzy going up the escalators – I knew the symptoms of Myeritis by now. I was just happy to see the old girl looking better than ever – with a huge face lift and having shed a lot of excess weight.
Maybe I’m just getting a bit sentimental in my old age, maybe it’s that damn bug again, but after 30 years in retailing ( most of it in department stores) I was as excited as ever to be at the opening of a new store. I have been at many openings – and opened many in my career – but if it’s in your blood – you will know what I mean.
I had the opportunity to take some of RED’s international clients through the new Myer Bourke Street store and enjoyed their reaction of surprise at what Australian retailers, architects and designers had achieved.
If you have Myeritis too I have bad news for you – there may be no cure – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!