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.

Mansi Lavsi

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