Christmas City: Beware of the Gruen Transfer

Dec 1 • Christmas City, Retail, Special Features, TORONTO • 1197 Views • 4 Comments on Christmas City: Beware of the Gruen Transfer

If you are going out for Christmas shopping in the next few weeks, you will definitely be aware of the marketing strategies that will be hitting you in waves at the malls. The thinly veiled, and not so thinly veiled motives that stores use to try to induce you to buy. Some of these strategies are always in place year round, but Christmas is indeed the special time of the year, especially for retailers. For example, malls during the Christmas shopping season transform into hypnotic spaces which seem to make people shop more than they want to. A perfect mixture of the Gruen transfer and your favorite Christmas songs to get you into a feel good mood.


In general, shopping malls are designed in such a way as to distract consumers into a commercial trance. Ever go to a mall with something in mind to buy, but once you get inside the mall you ask yourself ‘what did I come in here for again?’ That’s because if you don’t find what you came for in the first 12 minutes of being in a mall, the Gruen transfer, named after the late Austrian architect Victor Gruen, goes into effect and you risk falling into a trance of desire and consumption.


The Toronto Eaton Centre is a good example of the effects of the Gruen tranfer. It functions like a suburban mall, except it’s located in downtown Toronto. The designer of the mall, Eberhand Zeidler, wanted his firm and its collaborators to design a mall which looked like a transatlantic liner. Maybe Zeidler knew the Gruen transfer of the Eaton Centre would make the tenants boat loads of money, hence the ship-like design of the mall. With its many decks of stores, eateries and signage, the Eaton Centre is a space in which distraction and disorientation are inevitable. And who can resist those distracting sales signs. For the next few weeks as you do your Christmas shopping, watch out for the Gruen transfer. The malls do not want you to ask yourself if you really need 3 suits for $325, but they want you to ask whether you’ll see prices this cheap ever again. Regardless, shop with discrimination and find what you want in the first 12 minutes. Write it down if you have to. The devil might be in the details, but the marketing is in the design of the spaces, not just the sales signs.


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