I dropped in with family for a weekend in Sydney last week and visited its renowned Sunday market at The Rocks. I'm not into markets, but I was suckered into one store which, to my eye, was easily the busiest in the place. It sold monotone historical photos from throughout Australia and New Zealand.
What is it that drives so many people to buy photos from 100 years or more ago? It it just curiosity? Is it a deep-seated longing for when life was simpler? Or was it that this store was just a terrific 'child minding' facility for guys who just aren't interested in accompanying partners to aroma therapy and home-made jewellery stalls?
A quick glance at the demographic led me to believe it was probably a combination of all three. But what struck me most is that these old photos, presented and dated in their green cardboard mounts were actually doing good business. Compared with other stalls, they were doing great business. I would love to know why and understand the driver for this.
If I wanted to chance my arm at the underlying psychology, the sales were a by-product of personal connection. These old images project a story about where we come from, a sense of self in the flow of history, whether we've made progress and even how we might better plan for the future.
The Rocks market was a microcosm of retail behaviour. The store making the greatest personal connection was selling products that struck an authentic chord with its community. It was retail at its most basic, but it carried a contemporary message for brands.