Westfield – Homogenising Aussie Culture

Westfield Shopping Malls (and its cohorts Coles and Woolworths) may have done more for the homogenisation of culture than any other force in Australia.

If a new Westfield opens in your area, donʼt get too excited because youʼve seen it all before. The carefully positioned mix of corporate and franchised retailers (The fashion outlets, the department store/s, the grocery chain, the bakery.) That doesnʼt mean all the merchandise is exactly the same. The retailers will have sliced and diced your demographics and market to decide what you are likely to buy. Bad luck if you have different tastes.

Westfield provides a working model for the corporatist/technocratic state. No messy entrepreneurs; no or very few messy small businesses (green grocers and butchers seem the only possible exceptions); all money, income and costs are centrally monitored to make sure the state/landlord (Westfield) get their share; business relationships are corporatist, contractual and professionalized; no messy democracy; all spaces are regulated and monitored and the role of the public is simplified to that of the consumer or worker.

In newer parts of cities (say mid 1970’s on), Westfield has worked with town planners to choke out development of strip shops and other suitable property for the development of small entrepreneurial retail business. Smaller parking lot retail centers mimmic Westfield with franchised food outlets, bottle shops and convenience grocery outlets (mostly corporate). Cafes, florists, hairdressers and ethnic restaurants may be the only independently operated businesses. This serves to concentrates the interesting, edgy and entrepreneurial into older often gentrifying inner city areas while leaving the newer suburbs feeling relatively culturally limited.