Keeping up a classy image

By Rhonda Dredge

Collins Place has just turned 40 and celebrations have included a survey of tenants with the aim of discovering legend retailers.

While other places in the city chop and change, the plaza has kept its original tenants.

“Many have been at the plaza for more than 20 years,” marketing manager Yvette Switalski said.

The plaza will be posting profiles of its retail legends on its website, including long-termers such as the chef at Kenzan who has been at the restaurant for 30 years.

The chef was recruited from Japan to revive the restaurant and stayed on.

“Margaret from Feathers is going strong. She’s 81. She has her finger on the pulse,” Yvette told CBD News.

“Mark at the newsagent has been here since the day it opened. Laura from Lux Jewellery has been here 20 years. The Kino has been here the whole time. Edwina knows her audience.”

The aim of the promotion is to personalise the experience for customers during a difficult time and to highlight what is unique about the place.

“Most shopping centres are cut-and-paste. They have the same floor tiles, the same toilets. Collins Place is different.” 

The plaza was designed by architect I M Pei, a New York company, with local firm Bates, Smart and McCutcheon, and opened in 1981.

It was said to represent the “power, capitalism and prestige” of Manhattan with the three-level atrium, a space frame connecting two towers and the city’s first glass-fronted lift.

Now, thanks to the Scandi décor, including original wooden floor tiles, the modernist forms of the atrium and the regular foreign film festivals at the Kino, it still has a hip retro feel.

Collins Place, as opposed to other, more recent generic developments in the CBD’s prime street, is classy and attracts locals.

“See that couple going to the Kino,” Yvette said. “They’re well-dressed and well-travelled. They probably live nearby in the CBD. By going to an Italian movie, they can get swept away when they can’t go away.” 

Yvette has worked at shopping centres in India, Indonesia and London and has taken the centre through a challenging time.

“I love retail. You can’t just rest on your laurels. Customers are so savvy. Even when they order something click and collect, it needs to be in tissue paper. Retail is detail. That’s the new bar.”

The plaza was jumping before the latest COVID setback, with the return of most of the tables and chairs and a light-filled, airy atrium to attract diners. 

The two towers did have a captive audience of 8000 workers. Just one cafe has closed because of the pandemic out of a total of 25 businesses.

“Image is the value that creates demand,” Yvette said •

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