The new president of the Collins Street Precinct, Mary Poulakis, is one of those increasingly rare types of people who likes to contribute.
For Mary (pictured right), it’s the second time around, having taken the reins some years ago and she is again stepping forward for the cause of maintaining and enhancing Collins St’s preeminent position.
Her interwoven passions for Collins St and retailing make her the perfect ambassador for Australia’s premier street.
For Mary, it’s been a 20 year journey and her respect and affection for Collins St remains undiminished.
Retailing, she says, and Collins St, in particular, is the economic engine-room of the city.
She said retail was the job that people did while waiting for a break in their “real” careers as engineers or other professionals.
But opportunities in these more respected careers are disappearing and it’s about time that people started respecting the role that retail plays in the national economy, she says.
These days, the Collins Street Precinct has a strong retail focus but, Mary says, it wasn’t always the case. The group was more corporate when she joined some 20 years ago and was more motivated by the challenge of preserving the street’s rich heritage.
And, while it still plays a “guardian” role, it’s prime objective is to make its members more successful in their businesses.
It does this through advocacy on relevant issues and via direct and indirect marketing.
“Collins St has it all,” Ms Poulakis said. “It has heritage, culture, architecture as well as the absolute best retail. They are great marketing pillars.”
“We like to combine what’s good for the city with what’s good for the street. Sometimes they marry up and sometimes they don’t.”
Ms Poulakis points to the attraction of the world’s best brands to Collins St as an economic driver for the city.
“There’s not another in the country with such a viable retail precinct,” she said. “And this all feeds off the other things that Melbourne is known for.”
Ms Poulakis first fell in love with Collins St when she joined her husband’s business in the Rialto building. The couple opened a second store at 101 Collins St (before the existing tower was constructed) at the eastern end in 1994.
“We’ve watched the street develop and evolve over a long period of time,” she said.