The High Street Darwinism
Luxury, brands, retail therapy, enjoyment are the words one would generally associate with high street retailing. For the city of Ahmedabad, high street is synonymous to Chimanlal Girdharlal Road (commonly known as C.G. Road), a prime shopping street in the heart of the urban fabric. It was in the mid-1990s that C.G Road introduced Ahmedabad to the concept of branded goods, an attribute reflecting globalisation. Pepe Jeans London, Levis, United Colors of Benetton, etc., were among the first international players on the C. G Road strip and their entry seemingly had given Ahmedabad a make-over.
Today the road is effervescent with shops catering to all possible consumer segments. Yet, it echoes the notion on which the retail industry thrives -- change. Change is the crux of retail evolution. It is through constant change that C.G Road has become what it is today. Meeting global standards is the goal set by retailers and C.G Road by virtue of its location provides them the platform to strive towards their goal. On the other side of the river, the same city has an entirely different retail story to tell. Or is it that different? Initial observations may convince us to perceive both the retail systems to be poles apart. But observing the deeper undertones of the systems may lead us to a different conclusion. The concept of ‘bazaars’ is the oldest form of retailing known to mankind. It is a term coined for a market having a street of shops/stalls where goods and services are sold. The old city of Ahmedabad is home to many such markets; Rani no Hajiro, Teen Darwaja, and Dhalgarwad are a few highlights. These markets have functioned in a similar fashion for ages and will continue to do so. Their charm lies in the essence of tradition and they are well aware of that. They set the first stone to the idea of shopping on a street; which is the main idea behind high streets that we see today. The concept of window displays can also be traced to the bazaars where products meant to attract are placed in perfect view of the customers walking on the street. The style of promotion for bazaars was to shout out prices and offers when a customer comes near the stall. With the advancement in the retail industry and technology as well, the promotion style has dived into the subtleties of hoardings and media advertisements for high street retail stores, but the old style is still prevalent in the bazaars in the old city. Maybe, it is a simple example of ‘Old habits die hard’. C.G Road as a high street has its base concepts linked to ancient bazaars and also incorporates newer systems which satisfy a consumer as being rooted to traditional methods while on the path of achieving international retail standards. The fact that the ever evolving high street and the ancient bazaar system co-exist in the same city pushes the retail industry towards progress with a constant reminder of its roots. As an alternate viewpoint, the high street may be an evolved form of the bazaar, but both have different cultural connotations. Therefore, they may coexist in the same city but have separate cultural zones. Culture is the reason why the high street aims to reach higher and higher levels of evolution and culture is the reason why the old city markets prefer to operate in the same way. But it is the prevalence of both which paints the city in its diverse colours.