Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ABC 1233 Radio 'Local Treasures'- Newcastle's Retail History

Tuesday 22 January, 2013
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewee: Ann Hardy

Broadcast Notes
The way we shop in the region has changed over the decades, with consumers adapting to the changing world they live in. From buying basic goods in the traditional manner from butchers and small grocers to the modern era of the 1960s when shopping became popular in the large department stores and shopping centres. Many people can recall the changes that have taken place, or recall family members reminiscing about their shopping experiences and favourite places to go when they ‘went to town’.

In the nineteenth century most of the early suburbs such as Lambton, New Lambton, Adamstown, Waratah and Hamilton had their own grocers, butchers. There were single standing shops that catered for the basic needs of people living nearby who couldn’t travel far to get their goods. Transport was limited and to shop locally was very convenient. This supported to local economy and was a personalised way to shop because it was on a small scale and people really got to know one another. Socially this was good for individuals and communities.

Some of the early suburbs also had co-operative societies and these increasingly become common throughout the Hunter region during the 1900s. These stores offered a diverse range of goods, and were managed and owned by members of the co-op who would receive share of profits. The largest of these in the Hunter was “The Store” located at Newcastle West, Charlestown, Kurri and other regional outlets and ceased trading around the 1980s.

When Newcastle and outer mining villages began to expand and transport links such as trams were established, this brought more people into the city. The Great Northern Railway established in 1857 also brought people into the retail district, the city was always destined as an extensive retail hub because of its location and access from a variety of means, including from the wharf.

Wholesalers and small department stores were established at the ‘top of town’. Scott’s department store and Cohen’s Warehouse were major stores, as well at Newcastle West where the Emporium was built in the late 1800s. Stegga’s City Emporium was an early department store, a number of shopkeepers occupying a single building. This building remains at on Hunter Street near Union Street.

Smaller shopkeepers started to occupy Hunter Street. A visit to Newcastle was a whole day out and there were many indulgences to be had, such as visiting tea rooms and coffee houses. Hunter Street was Newcastle’s main street or as the British refer ‘high street’ where specialist goods could be purchased. By the twentieth century the retail experience had a sense of luxury, a chance to buy things that were not available elsewhere in the region.

Consumer behaviour had changes from buying the simple necessities of life to buying luxury items. Department stores in Newcastle in the 1920s and 30s sold home furnishings and imported fabrics and jewellery. They also increasingly sold manufactured products. Main streets continued to flourish in the mid 1900s

View down Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW, Australia [c.1950s] http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/5443426060/

The culture of shopping changed during the twentieth century. It continued to be a social affair whereby people would go to town for the day. It was a special occasion and there was a social etiquette around what you wore and who you went with. Talking with my mother about her recollections of Newcastle’s shopping culture in the 1950s, she recalls having to dress up, wearing hats and gloves and adorned in your best frock and shoes. She would go with her mother and grandmother and be treated to a ‘sugar pink pig’ from the Sweet Spot at Devonshire Street, Newcastle West. It was not uncommon for shoppers to walk to length of town (Hunter Street)

As suburbs developed so did the way we shopped. From basic goods to high end luxury shops and department stores were established at the shopping centres such as Jesmond Centre and Kotara Fair in the mid1960s catering to the needs of people living in outer areas. The 1970s also saw the popularity of the supermarket.

Today the face of shopping is changing again with consumers turning to on-line shopping. On-line shopping does not involve the experience of shopping as an outing, the social experience is diminishing. Many people do not have the time as they did with family and friends to go shopping. Worldwide many main streets are empty, waiting knew use, however as people adapt to a changing society so too will the way we shop.

One thing I have noticed in Newcastle particularly in the Mall is the former vacant shops now used in the Renew Newcastle Project. Local artists and manufacturers are taking up older spaces and bringing back to town a different experience. People are enjoying browsing and buying goods that aren’t seen in the suburbs. In many ways this is going back to the main street shopping culture, also these individual traders provide a personalised service. Goods are made locally, the service is individualised and a sense of community is coming back to town. Consumer behaviour today is also influenced by environmental factors with many people wanting to shop locally and support home grown product.

History tells us that the way people shop is always changing. It may be the actual experience and social aspects of shopping that will come, experiences that are memorable spent with family and friends.

The following photos are from the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collection flicker site http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/
Ralph Snowball Collection- Hamilton and Lambton Co-operative store, Pearson and Grainger Streets, Lambton, NSW, 1 September 1898] http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/3218213389/in/set-72157608912691810
T G Griffiths General Store, [Mayfield/Waratah] 2 February 1890 http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/3879742631/in/set-72157608912691810
Ralph Snowball Collection G. Bell & Sons, Elder St, Lambton, NSW, 5 May 1896
http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/3230816018/in/set-72157608912691810
H. Elliott, butcher, Killingworth, NSW, 20 October 1903
http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/3270919392/in/set-72157608912691810
Gittins and Eastham Family Grocers and Produce Merchants, Adamstown, NSW, September 1897 http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/3342135381/in/set-72157608912691810
W. Horne's Grocer shop, Nelson Street, Wallsend, NSW, 20 June 1899
http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/3326439605/in/set-72157608912691810
James Mackie and Co, Federal Furniture Store, 175 Hunter Street West, Newcastle, NSW, 20 August 1897 http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/4044487301/in/set-72157608912691810
H. Stegga's City Emporium, Hunter Street West, Newcastle, NSW, [n.d.]
http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/3271385886/in/set-72157608912691810
Marcus Clark's Drapers and Importers, 709-713 Hunter Street West, Newcastle, NSW, 22 July 1902 http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/4044487875/in/photostream/
Hunter Street, Newcastle West, NSW, Australia [c.1960s] http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/5552086016/


1 comment:

Greg Browne said...

arrrh , ''the sweet spot '' cnr of devonshire lane & hunter st . sugar pigs stood in rows to divide up the front window displays . inside all manner of lollies were in jars etc. my father loved '' vienna almonds ' and a sweet called ''turtles '' [ chewy caramel with nuts ,covered in milk chocolate ] . on the left hand side of the shop was the famous '' pineapple bar ''. a glass of pineapple crush '' was filled with juice and pineapple pieces . beautiful . how i miss those trips to the sweet spot with my family during the 60s . what a wonderful treat . greg browne .