The chains of Bentleigh

My local suburb is increasing in density, and (not entirely disconnected from that) it’s also interesting to see how the retail strip is doing.

The shopping centre has grown around the railway station, which is still the epicentre, though the east side of the tracks is where most of the busiest shops are located.

The chain stores (often referred to as “anchor tenants”) have maintained their presence here, and in fact new ones are moving in.

  • The banks may have pulled out of many suburbs (leaving only an ATM of you’re lucky) but the big four (Commonwealth, ANZ, and Westpac, as well as Westpac subsidiary Bank Of Melbourne) are staying. NAB strangely doesn’t list their branch on their own web site, but I’d swear there is one near the station (see above).
  • The three big supermarkets Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have branches. No IGA though – there is one in nearby East Bentleigh.
  • Target is on the site of an old Coles variety store
  • Medicare was here until last year; it’s now closed. But there is a post office and dealers for Telstra and Vodafone.
  • Real estate agent offices abound: chains include Woodards, Buxton, Hocking Stuart, Hodges, Century 21.
  • Flight Centre and some smaller chains such as Glick’s bagels, Cartridge World, Discount Lollie Shop and Paint Spot. Brumbys and Baker’s Delight also have branches
  • And food giant of the moment Domino’s pizza, as well as Crust Pizza and Nandos chicken and Subway are all here, though other fast food outlets such as Maccas, KFC and Hungry Jack’s seem to prefer to be on the highways or major arterial roads.

All these chains sit alongside hundreds of individual retailers, who while they might compete, are probably glad that the chains are there to bring in the shoppers.

Chemist Warehouse, Bentleigh

The newest chain store arrivals are Mexican restaurant Taco Bill’s and Chemist Warehouse, the latter taking up residence just a couple of doors from Priceline… they must be delighted.

I suspect restaurants benefit from more local competition, growing the local market of diners. I’m not sure the same can be said for chemists. 

Despite the utilitarian warehouse design of Chemist Warehouse (well, it is in the name), I don’t mind them — though I’m always amused by their advertising. “Australia’s Cheapest Chemist” it proclaims, but if you look closely it actually says “Is this?” in front of that. So technically they’re not making the claim, they’re asking the question. Hmmmmmmm.

Moved to Chemist Warehouse, Bentleigh

It turns out Chemist Warehouse is not a new pharmacy — it’s a moved and rebranded one. Perhaps not a surprise – the Pharmacy Guild has strict location rules preventing too many chemists in one area.

These rules were recently extended by the government until at least 2020:

Rules that restrict new pharmacies from opening near existing pharmacies will be extended for another five years despite numerous government-commissioned reviews recommending they be abolished. — SMH 18/5/2015

That aside, rebranding is a clever move. I rarely saw anybody go into the old chemist. The new one has brand recognition and more promotion — and already, from what I’ve seen, is getting a lot more customers.

I guess that’s the advantages of being part of a chain.

Other rail-based suburbs I’ve lived in, such as Murrumbeena and Glen Huntly, may not have the benefits of lots of chains, but it’s pleasing to see them still getting customers in, thanks to things like quality local cafes.

Hopefully all these local centres will continue to thrive. They’re so much more interesting than the malls.

Signs blocking bike lanes and footpaths

This is not the first time I’ve spotted something like this: real estate agent signs blocking bike lanes.

I’m not sure why anybody who thought about it for more than a second would think it was a good idea to leave signs there. Cyclists would either be forced out into traffic, or if they didn’t notice the signs, collide with them.

In this case, I decided to move the signs out of the way. They were still quite visible to passing motorists — along with a plethora of other signage nearby.

Granted the bike lane isn’t very wide at this point anyway, but whether the cyclist uses the lane or takes the traffic lane should be up to them.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened. From my observations, this particular location (Neerim Road, Glenhuntly) has been problematic for some weeks.

Real estate agents are also notorious for blocking footpaths. The photo below was snapped just after a lady with a mobility aid struggled to pass this giant flag.

Real estate agent flag across footpath

Some agents have been fined for this.

It’s a similar issue to the illegal parking of vehicles over footpaths. While able-bodied people can walk around, those with prams and mobility aids often can’t. They might be forced onto damp or difficult-to-navigate nature strips, or even out onto the road.

Real estate agents obviously need to promote their properties, and make sure that people can find them. But they need to find a way that doesn’t involve blocking bike lanes and footpaths.

After I approached Hodges last year about the footpath instance pictured above, they said they were looking into ways of preventing that in the future, which is good to know. For instance smaller flags above the footpath users might work well.

So far, Castran Gilbert have been silent, but I hope they’re reviewing their practices.

Update 5pm: They have now responded. It’ll be interesting to see what action they take, and whether the issue continues.

The perfect, durable, compact umbrella

Melbourne’s rainy season is upon us. It’s been a few years since my blog post about good strong compact umbrellas, so here’s a quick update.

A good umbrella is vital for a dedicated walking/PT person.

The brief: an umbrella that, folded, can fit in my work bag (eg a maximum length of about 35cm) and go anywhere. And — this is the hard bit — as durable as possible. Foldable umbrellas tend not to be made of the strongest material due to compactness, and what I don’t want is it falling apart when caught in the rain.

Broken umbrella (happily, not mine)

Senz

I did buy a Senz Mini. It went well for a while, but then part of it got bent out of shape, and it wouldn’t close properly. It was replaced under warranty. I had also bought Marita a Senz Mini. It lasted a bit longer (out of the warranty period!), but she had some similar problems with it.

Then I lost mine… and bought a newer model, the Senz Mini AO (the acronym standing for Auto Open, not Adults Only). So far, that has been fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have upgraded the parts we had issues with.

In fact the Senz AO has subsequently been replaced by the Senz Automatic and the Senz Smart S (a budget version).

As with all the Senz models, the shape of it (with the handle set forward, rather than in the middle) means good coverage, even for a relatively small design.

And when folded, it’s very compact; about 28cm long. It’ll stick out, but can go into a pocket.

Blunt

When M’s Senz was becoming too problematic, I bought her a Blunt XS Metro to replace it.

Feedback from her and others suggests there are pros and cons here; in comparison with the Senz foldable umbrellas the coverage is less, and the folding mechanism isn’t as compact, meaning when not being used it may not fit in some bags.

But the Blunt models do seem to be constructed to a high standard, making them very durable.

There’s also a variant of this one: the Blunt XS Metro + Tile, which has a Tile inside it, a chip designed to prevent it being lost. When activated it can play a tune so you can find it. It can also tell you via the app where you last saw it (I’m guessing this simply tells you where you were when your phone was last in range of it). It might help you find it if lost somewhere static. Not sure it’d help if (like I did) you leave it on a train.

Is there a perfect compact umbrella?

Comparing the Blunt XS Metro (A$89) vs the Senz Automatic (not even sure of the current cost, as they are so hard to find):

  • The Blunt looks like it is tougher (fibreglass ribs vs the Senz’s aluminium and steel).
  • But the Senz is more compact when folded (Senz 28cm vs Blunt 36.5cm, and while the canopy is slightly smaller, the shape and handle position provides better rain protection.

Surfing around the net I did find this: the Gustbuster Metro (A$64) got a good review. This Metafilter thread also has some suggestions.

Has Choice reviewed umbrellas? Judging from their web site and their paper magazine index, apparently not.

Anybody know some other contenders for the perfect, durable, compact umbrella?

Just do us all a favour: don’t bring out the golf umbrellas on busy city streets. They belong on the golf course.

Stamps going up to $1

What can you buy for $1?

You certainly can’t buy a newspaper. The Herald Sun costs $1.40 on weekdays; The Age costs $2.50; The Australian is $2.70.

So I’m finding it difficult to be too outraged at standard stamps going up to $1. In fact this letter in Saturday’s Age perfectly sums up how I feel about it:

For $1, I can send a letter from the most out-of-the-way PO in the local store in Victoria for delivery to the most remote location in the Kimberley. What else can I buy for $1? Not much. Can a competitor deliver a letter from one side of Sunbury to the other for $1? No. People still use mail when it is the appropriate method. We long ago switched to fax then email where appropriate, including because they are cheaper and quicker. The price increase from hardly anything to not much will not change most decisions. Please, public, stop complaining about this trivial price increase.

Don Hampshire, Sunbury

70 cent stamps, 2015

Granted, it’s a jump from the old price of 70 cents.

Notably, concession stamps are available for concession card holders — up to 50 per year, at 60 cents each, so hopefully those on lower incomes (including seniors) who still send a lot of letters won’t feel a huge impact.

But for most of us, technology means regular letters are just not something we send as often as we used to. I still send a few Christmas cards in December, but I probably receive more parcels (via online shopping) than I send letters.

On the occasion that I do send letters, a dollar (or even $1.50 for “Priority”) for transporting physical paper, whether it’s across the city or across the country, still feels like a bargain to me.