HCCI Seminar: Matthew Bailey (Macquarie), “‘The competition that matters’: Histories of shopping centres in Australia (with examples from Newcastle)”

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March 31, 2023
Subject Fields: 
Australian and New Zealand History / Studies, Business History / Studies, Urban History / Studies, Social History / Studies, Economic History / Studies

The Historical, Cultural and Critical Inquiry Group at the University of Newcastle (Australia) is pleased to announce the next paper in our 2023 seminar series, on Friday 31 March 2023, 10-11am Australian Eastern Daylight Time (UTC+11). The seminar will be simultaneously held on campus and broadcast live via Zoom. (Details and Zoom link below.) Our presenter is


‘The competition that matters’: Histories of shopping centres in Australia (with examples from Newcastle)

In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Joseph Schumpeter argued that entrepreneurs and businesses drove the evolution of capitalism by introducing the “competition that matters”. This type of competition resulted from innovations that fundamentally disrupted established practices and structures. “In the case of retail trade,” he wrote, “the competition that matters arises not from additional shops of the same type, but from the department stores, the chain store, the mail order house and the supermarket.” The shopping centre was introduced later but was similarly disruptive.

This paper explores the ways that Australian retail landscapes and shopping practices changed in the second half of the 20th century. In the 1950s, suburbanisation, rising automobile ownership, the post-war boom, and the arrival of supermarkets produced new trading conditions. Shopping centres were introduced in response to these forces. This required traditional firms to innovate and adapt, and opened doors for new entrants, including immigrant entrepreneurs who leveraged opportunities in a rapidly changing market. Shopping centres quickly became social spaces and hubs of suburban employment.

Over the next fifty years Australia’s largest retail firms continued to adapt by changing their business models and incorporating new retail formats. The retail property industry professionalised, welcomed an influx of institutional investors and became subject to interventionist government legislation in response to alleged abuses of market power. The specialty retail sector grew in scope and sophistication. Department stores gradually lost relevance. Retail ownership became more concentrated. This paper outlines these changes, drawing on examples from Newcastle, and considers the implications of this history for retailing moving forward.


Assoc. Prof. Matthew Bailey is based at Macquarie University. His book, Managing the Marketplace: Reinventing Shopping Centres in Post-War Australia (Routledge, 2020) is the first book on the subject, and one of the few to comprehensively examine Australian retail history. He has published widely on retail and retail property history, including in leading international and Australian journals such as Urban HistoryJournal of Urban History, Enterprise & Society and Australian Economic History Review. He is currently working on an ARC-funded project on the history of department stores, and a related project on the social and economic life of the high street in Australian cities and country towns.


For in-person attendance: Room W202, Behavioural Science Building, Callaghan Campus, University of Newcastle (Australia).

For online attendance:

Zoom meeting ID: 870 4036 3272 (Open from 9:45am)
Password: 783069
To Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://uonewcastle.zoom.us/j/87040363272?pwd=QTJQait4ZFFMa1pKYVgzQzhPTHF5Zz09

This event will be recorded. Presentation recordings will be available from our YouTube channel, History@Newcastlehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiju7vKLANeSX4QxBpMwJow


Contact Info: 

Dr Sacha Davis

The University of Newcastle

University Drive, Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia