A Happy Little Find

POD_HLD_Tandemonium Loving the happy little graphics done by Tandem E Tandem for Happy Little Dumplings. You can find HLD in happy little locations around inner Brisbane.

A couple of the above images via www.tandemoniumblog.com.  #dumplings  #brisbane  #cheapeats #podfinds

Food Brisbane

A Grand Design


POD, in collaboration with Comer & King, popped on our safety vests and waved the magic merchandising wand this week to produce the display stand for Lisa Ellis Gardens at Grand Designs Melbourne. We must have done a good job ... it stopped Kevin long enough to get his photo taken with our very happy client, and talented landscape gardener, Lisa Ellis. #granddesigns #pointofdifference

Forbes retail forecast & DJ’s newbie are worlds apart

About 25 years ago, a Texan friend shared the advice passed onto her from a stylish Aunt who enjoyed a successful career in a service role. Her advice was simply ... "Darlin' put on some lipstick, smile and be nice".  Whilst retailing is a complex business in 2013 being nice is not a bad starting point for a service mantra. As such, I thought I would share a precis of this Forbes article and then some pics of the new David Jones store at Malvern Central.

Forbes: It's the Customer, Stupid!

A survey of stores and customers, conducted by TimeTrade (July 2013), gleaned insights from over 1,000 customers and 60 retailers including CVS, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s found that the key to winning in the retail game is to treat people well ie. ‘happy customers buy more' .

Customers surveyed said the number one thing missing from their shopping experience is the personal touch that in-store personnel offer (or could offer). 33% of customers want a more personalized experience; 30% want smarter, more helpful employees and 29% want faster customer service. 80% will abandon an in-store purchase if they have to wait more than five minutes for services like helping them find products, answering questions or checkout.

Of the retailers surveyed, 80% revealed that sales increase by 25 to 50% when customers are assisted by product experts. About 10% to 12% of shopping is conducted online and they expect this to continue. Mid-way through 2013 retailers reported that 83% of their sales took place in the physical store.  About 3% of their sales came from mobile phone purchases and expect that metric to almost triple in 2014.

TimeTrade does not forecast the end of retail, rather an upgrade to the shopping experience. In the future customers will be treated to service reminiscent of the Apple Store, with knowledgeable, attendant customer service reps and scheduling.

“If you’re a shopper and you’re going to (spend) the energy and effort to go to a store, you’re probably going to walk into that store and get that Genius Bar experience where they know you’re coming, they know you’re in the store, they’ve allocated someone to service your requests, they know all about you ... we have Retailers telling us that there will be retail locations that they create that only serve customers who have arranged to come in".  TimeTrade thinks that’s the way it will work in future.

Source: www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2013/09/22/its-the-customer-stupid/#!

David Jones - Malvern Central


Is it any wonder DJ's sales performance continues to plummet. Their newest, smaller format store at Malvern Central (ground floor - ex Target site) appears to be the same as any other store (cosmetics, apparel, accessories, homewares, childrens ware etc).  I did a quick walk through yesterday. Not a 'meet or greet' or "service pulse" could be detected. I spotted the usual suspects ... staff behind counters failing to engage with (potential) customers, not one of them spoke to me or made eye contact.

Wifi is the entry message. A desk with two computers can be found instore to look/buy on line (poorly executed at that)  ... really ... that's it for innovation? This 'lack of service' format will surely become a fossil in the future. Maybe the well-healed Malvern set will keep the DJ's dinosaur limping along for a bit longer? Who knows? What I do know is they should have read about my shoe experience at Lord & Taylor in NYC and be using technology on the floor to make the shopping experience a whole lot more convenient along with providing engaging experiences in store (couldn't find any of those either).  As a general rule I only report on positive and engaging retail finds and leave it to others to dish up disappointment. Soz about that.

As an aside note, AMP have done a rather nice job of the centre ambience upgrade.  #davidjones  #malverncentral  #amp  #podfinds

POD obsolete?

An article from Inside Retailing by Brian Walker (Retail Doctor Group) that I thought worth sharing with POD bods:

"The real DNA of a branded retail experience is increasingly less about having a different offer to your competitor. In fact, I am starting to realise that a traditional point of difference (POD) in a business sense is a reasonably static interpretation, with the only catalyst that creates momentum being innovation and reinvention. Many differentiated businesses in product range and even store experience have fallen by the way side. Why is that?

In today’s world of copy and replication, large retail environments of homogenous offerings claim their point of difference on brand, product, service, or location differentiation. But instead, what we have is a largely vanilla style of being different to our neighbouring retailer.

Two factors are emerging to ensure that not much remains of what was. Speed and impact are the crucibles upon which successful customer facing business is being built upon.

Firstly, speed or simply doing it faster than others – speed in brand impact, creating and innovating a product or service, faster internal processes, business information systems, initiation and response, delivery and communication, driving a faster customer experience with response and action in real time, and ruthlessly driving a faster ratio of productivity – faster to be trusted (an integral part of the commercial equation).

It’s interesting to see how many organisations value zero defects, and high internal and external speed to the point of measurement and reward. I wonder if online retailing has reinforced this aspect of speed for us.

Impact is an equally critical mandate for a retailer, or more precisely the effect or impression of one thing on another: the power of making a strong, immediate impression.

Consumers increasingly search for retailers based on a premise of speed to them in an intimate and direct way, coupled with an impact that invites them to be part of that retailer’s tribe. Being known for something, owning the space, creating impactful events from strategy to instore experiences, and having a culture of impact fuelled by speed and not constrained by management creates the genesis of a truly great fit retail business – think Zara, Apple, Virgin, Google, Facebook, Westfield, Walmart, Ikea, Tiffany & Co, Costco, and the list goes on. Sure, these brands have plenty of copies present and emerging, plenty of would be’s, but what really separates them from their competitors is not the traditional axis of differentiation, but rather the strands of speed and impact within their DNA."


Good Things in Small Packages

POD_botanica_redhill Botanica seems to operate on the philosophy "less is more". It is a tiny shop offering a small range of super fresh salads, savoury tarts and gluten free goodies for sweet tooths. No seating or espresso machine, this is all about good food to go. Gorgeous packaging and a steady stream of customers makes me suspect Brett and Alison Hutley have a hit on their hands. Head to 1 Enoggera Terrace Red Hill (Brisbane) - the gluten and diary free big chewy chocky biscuits are worth the trip alone! Botanica is right next door to Bowerbird Collections (see post below). www.botanicarealfood.com.au

Bespoke Little Bird

POD_bowerbird_redhill At first glance Bowerbird looks like another 'lovely' interiors store. I quickly discovered the mother and daughter talent behind the counter makes this little nest of stylish things for the home a stand out. Peta Sweatman is a ceramicist who hand makes the bespoke lamp bases that are a feature item. Shades in all sorts of designer fabrics add the finishing touch. With most things made (and made well) in China these days it is refreshing to find someone bucking the trend.  The pony painting is hues of blue also caught my eye. Turns out Peta's daughter is the artist. She will take a portrait or photo of a favourite pet and turn it into a work of art with her paint brush and acrylics. Affordably priced, her work would make a great anniversary or special occasion gift. You can find Bowerbird Collections at 1 Enoggera Terrace, Red Hill, Brisbane. Ph (07) 3368 3241. www.bowerbirdcollections.com 

The Milan Book

POD_MilanBook_MelbLaunch After almost five years in the making, my 'bestie', Robyn Lea has launched her sumptuous, stylish and all together fabulous behind the scenes book on Milan. It's a pastiche of part diary, part discovery of hidden gems in this magnificent city and mostly drool worthy photos that make me want to book a flight back there right now.

Launching into a hugely adventurous project just as the GFC hit meant there were plenty of high hurdles to jump along the way to put this book on the shelves (if it was an Olympic event she would take Gold for passion and persistence). I have watched her push on to complete the project whilst juggling her photography work, family (the youngest bambini being only 6 months old when she commenced the project) and uprooting the family from Melbourne to move to New York two years ago (I get tired just thinking about everything that she has had to contend with).  For me personally, I played a supporting role that included 3 trips to Milan to assist with production and plenty of 'ground support' here in Melbourne (I had a slight misdemeanour with the law a few years ago and found myself reliant on the trusty old treddlie for transport for a 3 month period ... I recall a very fast peddle to the post office with a print copy of the first draft tightly sealed in an express envelope to get it to a potential publisher and meet the postie's pick up deadline with about 2 minutes to spare ... her car was missing in action that particular day ... funny when you look back, but definitely not funny at the time!).

Robyn's stunning photographs and words have been woven together, turned into pages, bound and covered by ERD, a leading design studio, in Melbourne. The commitment of studio founder, Emilio Roccioletti, and the skills of Rossana Di Risso and Gabby Tedesco have been instrumental in bringing this project to fruition (Rosanna, Robyn and Leo at Berkelouw Books on Thursday - bottom picture above). "Love their work" pretty much sums up how I feel about them partnering with Robyn on this project.

Having already launched in Milan, London and New York, this week it's Melbourne's turn. You can purchase copies from Minimax (Robyn will be there signing books from 6pm to 8pm this Tuesday 20th August) or the city's most stylish store of archival and cutting edge fashion, Madame Virtue 5 Crossley Street Melbourne (Robyn pictured above signing copies at their little soiree last Saturday), Berkelouw Books in Australia, Barney's in New York, La Rinacente in Milan and Indigo Books in Canada. It is also available on Amazon (search The Milan Book by Robyn Lea).

www.robynleaphotography.com  and   www.erd.net.au

No guesses what I'm giving for gifts this Christmas ... and the silly season will be here before we know it.  The book will make a stunning and treasured gift  for Christmas, a special birthday or anniversary (and a great corporate or VIP client gift now that I think about it!)


Australian residents can order a copy directly from ERD in Melbourne, who will package it up very nicely and pop it in the post for you.  The Milan Book RRP $95.00 + postage as follows: $15 for Melbourne & Victoria; $20 for Sydney & NSW, ACT & Adelaide & SA; $25 for Brisbane and SE Queensland; $30 for Northern QLD, NT, Perth and WA.  Email emilio@erd.net.au, with the subject title MILAN BOOK ORDER and the lovely crew there will sort it out for you, pronto!

They will also supply to fashionistas and style setters in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and all other fabulous Asian cities. Email ERD for  postage details or if you are interested in being a stockist in Asia (I am sure it would fly off the shelves at Lane Crawford and Joyce!)

European and USA orders can be ordered directly through Robyn Lea Photography.  Email the gorgeous Marina for details on postage etc. marina@robynlea.net

The Milan Book MIlan

Restaurant Empires in Crisis

I am posting this article that appeared in The Sunday Age yesterday regarding the Melbourne restaurant scene. I am sure it is useful information for POD readers who have retail projects under development.

Given that food and beverage is a daily driver for foot traffic and that legislation largely controls labour costs, perhaps rent structures need to be revised it we want this sector to continue to thrive and add to the fabric of a fabulous city.

Some of Melbourne's most prominent hospitality figures have been forced to close venues or dramatically restructure their debt-ridden empires as the industry faces the biggest upheaval since the introduction of the controversial fringe benefits tax in 1986.

Almost 1500 Victorian restaurants have closed their doors over the past 12 months, which has been blamed on soaring labour costs, corporate belt-tightening and the ''Masterchef effect'' that has inspired a generation of home cooks.

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart said the industry was gripped by a ''systemic crisis'' that had forced some owners to flout award wage laws and avoid tax.

''And that just creates unfair competition between the businesses that do the right thing and those that don't,'' Mr Hart said.

Fairfax Media can reveal that a company associated with prominent restaurateur Paul Mathis, who sold Transport Bar and Taxi Dining Room in Federation Square for $20 million in 2006, is facing liquidation action in the Supreme Court of Victoria. The company is alleged to have traded while insolvent for more than two years at Mathis' defunct Soulmama restaurant in the St Kilda Sea Baths complex.

Corporate liquidators found the company owed millions of dollars to the landlord, suppliers and the Australian Tax Office. It had also failed to pay some superannuation benefits and workers compensation insurance.

Between 2008 and 2010, the company lent more than $470,000 to five other businesses linked to Mr Mathis, which were unable to repay the loans and have been shut down or placed into liquidation. ''Based on my examination of the books and records of the company, it is my opinion that the company was insolvent at all times during the period of 1 July 2008 to 15 December 2010,'' said liquidator Philip Newman of PCI Partners in documents filed in the Supreme Court.

Mr Mathis declined to comment other than to say the allegations of insolvent trading made by the liquidator were ''his opinion''.

Mr Mathis announced his latest venture, a 250-seat pizzeria set to open in Southern Cross Station last month, despite recently walking away from four other restaurants - Bangpop and Akachochin in South Wharf, Henry and the Fox in the CBD and Hawthorn East's Firechief.

Mr Mathis' co-director in the four restaurants, Frank de Rango, did not respond to requests for comment.

Food writer Richard Cornish said Melbourne's struggling hospitality scene was having a knock-on effect for suppliers of meat, fresh produce and alcohol, with many winding back credit terms or only accepting cash.

He said many restaurateurs had been skewered by soaring labour costs and high rents. ''In Australia wages are high, penalty rates are a big issue and passing on the cost of labour at the weekend is incredibly difficult. On top of that, you have big rents. Australian landlords are some of the most rapacious in the world,'' he said.

Nick Zampelis is another high-profile entrepreneur who is scrambling to save his hospitality empire, which has included more than 60 bars, restaurants and nightclubs over the past 25 years. Mr Zampelis has sold or closed six restaurants over the past six months, placed his Elsternwick mansion on the market and is poised to sell CBD nightclub Silk Road at a massive loss in a bid to stave off creditors.

Mr Zampelis has an offer of about $3.5 million for the Collins Street venue, after spending more than $10 million on a lavish refurbishment.

He denied he was under financial duress. ''Times are obviously tough, but I'm doing fine. In fact, I have plans to open three new restaurants. I'm getting out of nightclubs because I'm sick of the industry,'' Mr Zampelis said.

Melbourne Pub Group is also under mounting pressure, after acquiring the Albert Park, Middle Park and Newmarket hotels before spending about $5 million on St Kilda's Prince of Wales Hotel in 2011, with the financial backing of prominent businessman and racehorse owner Gerry Ryan.

Executive chef and director Paul Wilson resigned two weeks ago, following the departure in March of the group's operations and marketing manager, Julian Gerner, who oversaw the rapid expansion. At the time, Mr Gerner told Fairfax Media he lacked the drive to continue running the pub empire in the face of increasingly difficult trading conditions.

''I've been the marketer and the driver of all the businesses to date, but these days you have to micromanage hospitality and the margins are very slim. I don't have the energy to work 100 hours a week under the scrutiny and pressure of others,'' he said.

Australian Hotels Association spokesman Paddy O'Sullivan conceded that Victorian pubs were doing it tough in the face of savage discounting of packaged liquor by supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths.

Mr O'Sullivan said licensed venues now accounted for only 25 per cent of all alcohol sales, which had fallen from about 50 per cent a decade ago.

Tough times have also come for Mario Scerri, who famously bought Croydon's Dorset Gardens Hotel for $44 million in a deal scribbled on the back of a napkin in a corporate box at the 2005 Boxing Day Test Match.

Last month, the Scerri Hotel Group collapsed after amassing at least $485,000 in debts to the North Melbourne Football Club and defaulting on a commercial loan to a major liquor marketer. Mr Scerri is also facing bankruptcy proceedings over a failed loan guarantee.

Despite its debts, Mr Scerri said the group was just a ''shell company'' whose failure said nothing about the health of his wider business empire, which include interests in the Anglers Tavern, Sloaney Pony and The Nixon.

''It basically did nothing and I was happy to let it go into liquidation,'' he said. ''It's very tough out there at the moment. Wages are up, super is up and prices are down with all the competition. But none of those [hotels] are in trouble.''

Mr Scerri said he was unaware of the bankruptcy proceeding.

Ownership of the Dorset Gardens Hotel, which was controlled by another Scerri company, was transferred into the name of his brother, Joseph, in late 2011. Both brothers deny that Mario has had anything do with the Dorset since at least 2007, despite ASIC documents showing he was the sole director and shareholder until late 2011.

via http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/restaurant-empires-in-crisis-20130803-2r6gd.html

Food Melbourne

Shibori Surprise

Indigo Jane_Shibori Studio_Brisbane Shibori is the ancient Japanese art form of dyeing cloth.  I have just discovered my neighbour has a serious talent for the craft, and from what I can see it's a messy process. She tells me there is a precise formulae to mixing a 'really good' indigo vat and that it has taken her years to perfect the recipe. I popped over this afternoon and found her mid-way through creating another batch of artisan fabric. I took a few snaps of the string, gloves and PVC pipe that she uses in her dyeing techniques and was happy with the abstract results (hence this blog post!). She has no web site or established retail channel but I think she should. If nothing else I think the first few photos would make a fabulous large scale piece of photographic art in a Byron Bay beach house. Ah the talent hiding in the suburbs ... it needs to be encouraged and supported. "Indigo Jane" the world awaits your first exhibition!

Fashion Other Brisbane

Retail ‘Hip’ discovered in ‘Ip’ (who knew?!)


If taking a day trip out of Brisbane I assume most people, as a general rule, head North or South. Last Wednesday I headed West. Upon announcing to anyone who would listen that I was "off to Ipswich" I was met with a similar range of reactions (rolling eyeballs, "WTF?" and "AYKM?!" being the most common response) but, being an optimist and relatively new to this part of the world, I shrugged it off and went on my way.

Firstly, I am pleased to report the doubters were wrong!  Secondly, you only need a few hours and not a full day (it's about a 30 min drive from inner Brissy). Once you've taken in the views of gorgeous old Queenslanders and historical buildings I suggest you head straight past the 'WTF' and right on into the 'Top of Town' (home to a small cluster of on-trend shops and cafes).

Pictured above is Stuart Ellis's treasure trove of old and new furniture, objects and art. Fabulous finds like imported windows from Paris and restored iron gates from Egypt sit along side locally made artisan book cases and the like. This old plumber's shed is mostly made up of retail, but venture to the very back and you will find the workshop where restoration of precious pieces is also part of the story.

After doing retail time in Brissy (Tennerife), the move to Ipswich by ES Traders is a clue that the town is undergoing somewhat of a retail renaissance being lead by Stuart and a sprinkling of seriously stylish neighbours. I'll be heading back for a coffee at the mod little cafe that sits at the start of the lane, do a little more snooping and see what new surprises he has in store.

You can find ES Traders in Bon Laneway, 17C Ellenborough Street. Open 10.00 - 3.00 Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays.

A few doors up you will find the Traders newest neighbour, Faded Empire offering a small range of women's designer labels (think Maison Scotch etc), some striking costume jewellery (Ghost & Lola etc), Kantha lampshades from India and other wares for the home. The owners description is 'a contemporary store with an old soul' which sums it up perfectly. Love their logo too.

POD_faded empire_Ipswich

Just around the corner on Brisbane Street Cultiver offers a youthful mix of vintage, indie designer homewares (some fab screen printed tea towels and the like), slightly kooky accessories, quirky crocheted cacti and hand made greeting cards.  There is a lot more to this store but that is my immediate recall as I sit and tap this out late in the evening a week later.

POD_Brisbane St_Ipswich_Cultiver

A few doors further up the street you can take a snoop through some second hand treasures. In addition to the scent of  'must & moth balls' I am sure you could sniff out a bargain or two at Lutveys.

POD_Brisbane St_Ipswich

By now you are just about at the top of the town. Province is a retail front for an interior design business and a nice addition to the neighbourhood.


Once you have had your fill of homewares etc. I suggest you walk over the road to The Fourth Child for a coffee, brunch, lunch or whatever. Mother of three and owner, Amanda Robertson, had an established following for her cakes which she sold through market stalls but from what I can gather she was not content with mere baking and babies (or having enough on her  plate obviously??). She went on to have her 'fourth child' and by doing so branched out from baking to an all day cafe model with a paddock to plate / locavore (100 mile / 160km radius), sustainable, 'do the right thing' type ethos. It appears to be working.  The 'child' was on it's best behaviour when patrons packed the place out last Wednesday lunchtime.  My count of 'bums on seats' suggests that the locals really like it.

POD_4TH CHILD_IPPY I have to admit my expectations for finding retail inspiration in Ipswich were low. I love it when I am taken by surprise (which is something of a challenge when you have been looking at retail for as long as I have!).  Thanks to all the fine Top of Town people I spoke to and letting me share my version of their story.