Victoria's first free-standing regional shopping centre opened at Chadstone on 4 October 1960 with 7500 prospective shoppers in attendance and many more watching on television. Influenced by American models of drive-in shopping, Kenneth and Baillieu Myer spent £6 million to construct the shopping mall, which they saw as an extension of their Myer Emporium.
Located 13 km south-east of the Melbourne CBD, with more than 400 000 people (of whom 65% owned motor cars) living within an 8-km radius, the Centre targeted an emerging consumer, the motoring housewife. Contemporary advertising emphasised that the 45-degree angled parking spaces made shopping 'easier' for women who could not manage reverse parking. Designed, Graeme Davison argues, to 'reflect and perhaps exploit, contemporary family and community values', the initial complex featured short-lived facilities including a theatre, child-care centre, radio studio and bowling alley.
Purchased by the Gandel Group for $37 million in 1983, the Centre has been greatly expanded. To publicists it is 'the total retail experience of a complete urban town', but critics condemn the threat it poses to the more personal retailing experience of shopping strips, and the character of the surrounding suburbs. Australia's largest regional shopping centre, Chadstone now covers an estimated 132 000 sq m. It has the highest moving annual turnover of any shopping complex in Australia, attracting over 15 million visitors a year to its shops, cinemas and entertainment complex.