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Life Returns to Polanco

A stroll on a sunny winter day in Polanco reveals shops, restaurants and consumers beginning to return to some sense of normalcy




I HAVE BEEN KEENLY aware of retail my entire life. Long before my two-decade career designing and managing retail projects, I was a lover of shopping. Not just the buying, but the whole experience — the windows, the energy of the crowds, the chance to see people out with their families and friends. I have seen many changes in my lifetime as the Mexican retail market has evolved, but what I have witnessed over the past year during the shutdown due to COVID, has turned retail on its head. There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. I want to share the things I see with people around the world, including the trends, current conditions, and general observations about the past, present and future of retail in Mexico.

One month ago, I shared my impressions of the high street of Mexico City retail, Avenida Presidente Masaryk. I was dismayed to see that, during the mandated shut down due to COVID, retailers just boarded up, with a few exceptions, without concern for the effect on the community (Check here). Now, after months of being locked up, to the voice of “open or die,” the restaurants, boutiques and stores have obtained permits and concessions to be able to open their doors.

I decided to take a walk through Polanco, the district that is home to Masaryk, to see how things were going. I was pleased to see that people were in the streets, some with face masks, others not.

The local restaurants had set up outdoor dining in the street, taking over a traffic lane to allow for more tables, since the safety measures call for dining in open, outdoor spaces. Some streets were closed for this purpose and became pedestrian walkways.

With a lot of good taste and imagination, the restaurants defined their dining spaces with plants and flower pots as borders, making the streets inviting, pleasing places to sit and enjoy a meal. To all this, add an extraordinary sunny winter day, with fresh air, and you have the makings of a re-boot, a Renaissance if you will.

Whole families were out strolling and eating, and the stores were finally open — on restricted schedules — but open. Some stores were changing their show windows for the new season, while others had already done this during the time they were closed. The view offered a welcome sense of normalcy.


The staff, both in the restaurants and in the stores, smiling with their eyes, were eager for customers to arrive. The value and importance of pleasing the customer and creating an experience for them was on full display. I noted that I didn’t see many people with shopping bags. I think it will take the stores some time to have their customers back, as it seemed the goal was more to socialize than to buy right now. But once people come back out to indulge their culinary senses, to breathe the fresh air and to spend time with neighbors, the shopping will follow.

I have always believed that the most important aspect of retail centers is to create a place of community. The growing habit of buying more and more online will take some time to reverse. I believe, however, that the need for community will win out, especially if retailers continue to focus on the experiences they create. Hopefully, if this marvelous weather lasts for a long time, then we all can recover, little by little. These have been very difficult months for all of us and being part of the community has never been more important.




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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