Rosemary McLeod: More in store for Dotcom


If only more rich people had the class of Mr Dotcom, whose habits have seized my imagination.

He'd be second only to me in having the skills to save Kirkcaldie and Stains, endangered retail anchor of Lambton Quay.

I struggled with tennis for years, was taught the ladylike art of the serve and the backhand by the tedious hour, but remained ungainly. All that running about on the court was so exhausting: if only I'd had a butler, as Mr Dotcom reportedly did, whose job it was to chase after and pick up the balls he missed at ping-pong (a name I much prefer to table tennis). It wouldn't have been such a drag if you hadn't had to scramble around the court, bathed in humiliation, chasing those pesky things.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

I am reminded of the generously overweight American Vogue columnist, Andre Leon Talley, whose photograph obviously does not appear on its pages. In the acclaimed documentary, The October Issue, we learn that he's been told to lose weight by fashionably rake editor Anna Wintour, and thus we follow him to a tennis court where he exercises by waving a racquet languidly about, missing every ball that doesn't land precisely at his side, while swathed in copious bling.

He and Mr Dotcom would be a partnership made in heaven, with enough work between them for 20 butlers, but fate is cruel; I doubt they've ever met.

It's the duty of the rich to spend their money for the benefit of others, either through hiring staff to catch ping-pong balls or by spending up large with retailers. Since they can't take it with them, they might as well spread it around, which Dotcom and Talley have manifestly done. It's thanks to people like these that decent department stores and classy retailers survive - not that they shop in them in person, necessarily, but they have wives, mothers and girlfriends who like nothing better than a shopping challenge. There is magic in their carry bags, the green Kirks ones in themselves a sign of prestige in genteel circles, but currently lacking in mystique.

The mystique of Kirks was great in my mother's day, when the buyer of women's fashions was a discreet, scary figure of God-given immaculate taste. My mother would only be served by her in person, knew her by name and would come home armed with new dicta: "It's pink with red this season", or "Rust is in". Something expensive, guaranteed to be the operative word "smart" would be slammed on to her store account, to be paid off in miniscule amounts. Her problem was that she was poor, not mean, but poor people don't keep big department stores afloat. This is what does: having the goods and probably taste as well.

Kirks is planning to hire brand experts to help prepare it for eventual sale. Nameless investors are said to want to buy it: its retail business has been foundering for years, although its property arm makes money. Natural, then, for business jackals to circle, strip the profitable bit from the store, which loses money, and have other plans for the capital's retail icon.

I have a gloomy feeling about the future of the store where, to be honest, I don't buy an awful lot. I'd be especially hard pressed to spend a cheery thousand dollars in the women's fashion area, which has been depressingly unfashionable for years. What can explain this in a country of inventive designers, where the average age of women is not yet 70 plus?

Sadly for great department stores everywhere, the world isn't like it was in my mother's time: we have choice and, in the internet, serious competition. This is where Dotcom and I would step in, in an ideal world; my brains, his money. I could rejig the whole thing in 20 minutes, give him a charge account and instantly save the day.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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