Not just window dressing: Kodak's approach to visual merchandising and marketing as seen through the Kodak Heritage Collection.
The Kodak Heritage Collection contains a rich visual and archival record of Kodak Australasia's early retail displays from across the country. The company had uniform approach to marketing and visual merchandising across all Kodak retail outlets, governed by a marketing management team based first in Sydney and later in Coburg, Melbourne. This team was responsible for ensuring accurate pricing, policies and branding throughout Australia and New Zealand, taking direction from Eastman Kodak in the United States, but adjusting their content to suit the needs of Australian retailers and consumers.
Kodak had to reflect one image across the country – one of quality, trustworthiness and ubiquity. This is reflected in the retail displays and signage photographed and documented in the Kodak Heritage Collection, primarily drawn from the 1930s to 1960s. There is a standard use of colours (primarily Kodak patented reds and yellows with photographic images and/or illustrations). The posters and signage for each product display were also uniform, with local variations in layout. Branches had a degree of independence in their local area, but their instructions and the materials they were supplied with to do their job were very specific. Brochures, labels and price tickets were designed, pre-printed and distributed from Melbourne, and branches inserted their own contact details into them where relevant.
Almost all Kodak branch stores in the first half of the twentieth century had glass fronted shop displays, and glass covered counters filled with a dazzling array of products. In the 1920s to 1950s in particular, Kodak shop windows across the country displayed a certain uniformity – there was usually a thematic or product focus in the window display, such as Cine-Kodak cameras or night time flash photography. Cameras and film would be mounted on different sized plinths or cushions with a corresponding price ticket. Sometimes the products were arranged in a decorative pattern across the display window floor. Brochures, posters and pamphlets in their dozens were arranged around the products and the overall effect was one of overwhelming mass, and choice of product. This is in stark contrast to contemporary visual merchandising, which tends to be more minimalist and abstract.
Kodak retailers from the early 20th century to the early 1950s used their windows and shops as photographic exhibition spaces as well. Visitors and locals would come to see the latest attraction and be drawn past Kodak merchandise. For instance, in Sydney's George Street store, the latest photographs of King George VI's coronation were hung alongside Kodak cameras and film. In Brisbane, a well-known news and documentary photographer of the Pacific in the 1920s, Thomas McMahon, held an exhibition of his photographic prints alongside some Kodak cameras in the Queen Street display window (MM 106393 Similarly, Townsville used the small tropical garden behind their shop on Flinders Street as a drawcard for tourists and locals, in cooperation with the Queensland Tourist Bureau, who leased premises there. Visitors would come to see the gardens for free, but pass Kodak merchandise and signage on the way. Here in Melbourne, x-ray film from Abbotsford was displayed in the front window of the Kodak Block Arcade Store and later at Kodak House, both on Collins Street.
From the 1960s, these displays became more minimal. Products were taken out from behind the glass cases and displayed openly on merchandising units with decorative cardboard signage. Front window displays, while still packed with product, were more focused and less crowded.
The Kodak Heritage Collection records these changes through photographs in both negative and positive formats, as well as point of sale material, correspondence and other documentation.
1927, Kodak (Australasia) Pty. Ltd., The Brisbane Courier, 10 Dec, p.7
1928, Australian X-Ray Film, The Argus, 24 Sep, p. 20
1932, Kodak Window Display, The Brisbane Courier, 17 Nov, p.19
2013, Trail 1: Civic Pride, Townsville City Council, QLD, Australia url: http://www.townsville.qld.gov.au/facilities/parks/Documents/Heritage%20Trail%201_Civic%20Pride_2013.pdf
1945, Short Tours Around Townsville, Queensland Tourist Bureau, url: https://archive.org/details/ShortToursAroundTownsville