Orna Mulcahy: Can we keep it real down at the Frascati please?

Shopping centre bosses keen to push the dream – bright young things – instead of reality

A lot of shiny happy people have appeared on the hoarding around the Frascati shopping centre in Blackrock, which is doubling in size and getting a new tenant – Aldi – to add to its line up of M&S, Debenhams and McDonald's.

When it’s finished sometime in 2018, the centre, now owned by a US investment fund, will have a whole new layer on top where people can eat with a view of the shopping centre across the road, towards the sea.

In the meantime, it’s all a bit higgledy piggledy – and pardon our appearance. I don’t mind the disruption of parking in a bush somewhere around the back but as for the “vision” of what’s to come all I can say is – don’t be ridiculous.

The hoarding seems to suggest that the German supermarket and a couple of dozen extra stores and eateries will attract a whole new demographic – viz gorgeous fun-loving folk, who will gather there on the side of the Blackrock bypass to noodle and canoodle around the Frascati, eating elegant little mouthfuls, sniffing scent sticks and generally being delightful.


In one picture there’s a handsome couple entranced with each other by a deli counter, in another some gals laughing uncontrollably over a coffee and, further along, the same ladies now in their car in paroxysms of joy over a pair of mustard high-heels. Mad, hilarious stuff.

There’s a picture of some huge red lips and then a granny in grey hanging out with an adorable child – no new shoes for her mind – but important to have her, just in case people might quibble about ageism or anything tiresome like that.

Desperately chasing millennials

As a Frascati regular, forgive me for suggesting that this is just pants. It’s yet another imagined reality by a big business desperately chasing millennials who couldn’t care less. Increasingly they get their new shoes, their clothes and even their lipstick online, and only darken the door of Frascati to buy M&S salads and see if there’s anything they might have missed in the tiny Top Shop concession.

But in much as the same way as house-builders like to splash images of St Stephens Green and Temple Bar across brochures for apartment blocks in Stepaside or Celbridge, so the Frascati honchos are determined to push the dream – bright young things – instead of the reality: people like me who are generally quite dowdy and cross but who like bricks-and-mortar stores and have decent money to spend.

I would like to know how this vision was developed or if the discussion went any further than a quick search through Getty Images for "happy people shopping" or, perhaps "good looking affluent Caucasian women shopping".

Do advertising agencies really believe that people are in any way convinced or excited by these images of vaguely Mitteleuropean-looking people laughing like drains or finding meaning over the fresh produce display? These images are like musak: barely noticeable, but when you do notice, extremely annoying.

Planet perfect

Wouldn't it be great if, instead of importing these creatures from planet perfect, Frascati took a leaf from Lidl's book and showed its core and future shoppers just as they are? A quick scoot around the centre would tell them all they need to know about Frascati types. Instead of the group of gals, you could have a nice pair of 60-somethings staring into the depths of the €14 meal deal display or heaving six packs of 25-per-cent-off champagne into their trolley for the imminent and quite stressful wedding of their daughter to a man from Caracas.

Can I suggest some other hoarding-worthy personalities that would give regulars a thrill of recognition? What about the lynx-eyed person hovering near the bread display near closing time when the yellow reduced stickers go on? Or the woman leaning in, not in a Sheryl Sandberg way, but up to her shoulder in bags of lettuce, trying to pull the very freshest bag from the back of the shelf?

What about the Lulu Lemonised Mom, who maybe a few years back could have qualified to share a loving moment with her man at the deli counter but who is now buying carrot sticks for lunchboxes and liable to get very stressed if there are no Colin the Caterpillar birthday cakes left?

What of the whole families having their lunch in McDonald’s, the chain smokers sitting outside in a light drizzle, or the lone elderly person sitting on a bench at the entrance, parked there by a middle-aged child, because their mild heart failure means they can’t make the journey to the shops and then actually shop? What about the super annoying person – I’m afraid it’s usually a woman – who forages endlessly in her handbag looking for her purse which has many different zippered compartments, the last one of which contains a voucher.

And then, while they are at all of this refurbishment, what about giving these real people the kind of features they would really appreciate in a new shopping centre – fewer delis, say, but a drive-by chemist? Less sparkly shoes and more clean toilets and a machine that will give out Euro coins for notes, because one thing is sure about this new fancy Frascati – the parking will be pricey.