1This article has as its object of analysis two elements present with much evidence in the contemporary world scenario: the consolidation of consumption as prime stage of the productive process and the construction of commercial forms which have extolled and magnified even more the consumption of certain goods to certain society segments.
2Our discussion involves the materiality of commercial forms, in other words, its location and operation, and the virtuality of social relations which are established and which involve the act of consuming goods and services.
3The aim is to stimulate the debate about the expansion of consumer society considering its role as producer and inducer agent for social transformations; the creation and expansion of commercial forms; the construction of specific commercial structures for the development of consumption as a step of the productive process and the role of the city opposite the dynamics of these activities in the contemporary period.
4The place chosen for the research is the Sao Paulo metropolis, because our goal is to discuss and reflect on the ways of commerce and consumption used by a portion of society that is represented by the highest portion of income strata, that is, the so-called A or high Class, according to IBGE. In Sao Paulo, according to the Seade Foundation, approximately 25% of the richest families in the country lives in Sao Paulo.
5Moreover, due to the large concentration of upscale shops and malls which work with internationally renowned brands, Sao Paulo attracts people from other regions of the country seeking to consume in these types of commercial forms. The analysis will focus on the luxury commerce linked to fashion, especially in the sectors of clothing, accessories (including shoes and purses) and jewelry.
6Researching the various forms that commerce has been creating over the past decades is relevant to geographical studies, because the pattern of territorial location, their strategies and the way of consumption that these forms induce, reflect part of the contemporary society dynamics. The transformations that commercial activity suffered in recent years contributed to the establishment, consolidation and expansion of a new dimension of society, which has been called the consumer society, by many authors.
7It is needed to make a warning: commercial forms are not the only ones that explain and underlie consumer society, but is one of the factors that led its expansion and consolidation in the current period. Commerce, understood as part of the spatial (re)production and of the reproduction conditions of the production relations, is analyzed as a means of checking how society is being transformed, creating and adapting to new economic, political, social and cultural content, arising from the deepening of the largest general process which is unfolded in the world today, which we know as globalization.
8From the 1950s, Brazil went through an extensive process of industrialization and urbanization of its territory which led to an expansion in its infrastructure technical systems (roads, airports, river and sea ports, satellite systems, optical fiber, etc.), facilitating the movement and distribution of goods and merchandise over the Brazilian space. The southeastern region, in this context, was the one that concentrated most industrial activities and the one with the fastest economically and demographically growth, being the state of Sao Paulo the great engine of the national economy.
9Pintaudi (1989: 82) states that commerce went through transformations, caused "by mass production, increasing concentration of people in cities, qualitative and quantitative increase in consumption and the widespread use of the automobile". These factors were paramount to the achievement of profit and transformation of commercial forms in cities over the last 50 years.
10The last five decades have shown that Sao Paulo's economic development has led the city to become the main engine of the Brazilian economy, playing a role of a crossroad of large capital flows and vector diffusion of innovations in the cultural context at the international level of the Brazilian territory, which led it to be studied as a world city, according to the methodological proposal of Sassen (1988), in which the characteristics of this type of city lie in the emergence of highly specialized services sector articulating spaces with a rationality and efficiency seated on the competitiveness and established on internationally imposed standards. Levy (1997: 161), discussing this same issue says that Sao Paulo "is undeniably playing the role of articulating the national economy, serving as a link between the Brazilian economy and the international market, becoming in a nodal point, attribute of the world cities."
11Castells (1996) states that some sectors of the contemporary economy has emerged with greater evidence than others due to the pace of launching new products, the understanding and vision of new market niches, the use of new technologies, encouraging the use of new products, development of more modern patterns to produce, distribute and commercialize goods and services.
12We highlight among these sectors, the one facing the commercialization of products with high added value, that is, its brand has the greatest value, especially the ones linked to the consumption of the economic elites, as people of higher earnings.
13Fashion, cosmetics and beauty, accessories, furniture, decoration, electronics, clothes, shoes, luxury cars and jewelry industries stand out as the sectors that had a big raise in their levels of profitability in the last two decades all over the world.
14According to Lipovetsky (2003) branches of commerce related to fashion in the last decade were responsible for a large increase in the consumption of luxury goods with the price of the final product formed mainly by the value of the brand and not by the material of the final product. A coat of recognized brand in the world market has its final price inflated by the quality and exclusivity image that the brand has created over time and not just the value of the coat. The same could be said about a pair of jeans or even a jewel. That is, fashion is one of the great ways to study what Marx (1973) has stated on the theory of exchange and use value.
15Lipovetsky (2003) states that the major international brands are one of the elements that approach and assist in the hierarchism of cities around the world. Having a branch store of a major brand name is for the city reason of status and reveals economic success of its inhabitants, for it is recognized that for a trading unit of such brand name to settle in that city, it is because there is a reasonable number of people who will consume and keep this shop, considering the price of products and unique services offered.
16The luxury market does not just sell a product or a brand, but a lifestyle. About this, Lipovetsky (2003) complements stating that in the contemporary capitalist societies, it is consumed much more than just the final product, but the status it provides, its well-being, the services it provides to its users. Thus, exclusive services besides a nice, clean and broad place are paramount questions for a few shops and places to take hold successfully in the luxury market.
17In the city of Sao Paulo, only one region consists of the main places of luxury consumption of the elites. This region, which is located in the southwestern portion of the city encompasses among others, the neighborhoods of Jardins, Vila Olimpia, Pinheiros and Itaim Bibi, forming the center of the largest concentration/movement of people considered rich in Brazil. In this region it is also concentrated the largest number of private company headquarters in Latin America, especially companies from the financial, marketing and services segments.
18According to the Scope Geomarketing consultancy, currently 24,700 people considered millionaires live in São Paulo. A millionaire represents an impact on the economy equivalent to 66 employees with average income of R$ 3,500 monthly. However, a millionaire rotates sectors of the economy that, together, these 66 workers would not do, for example, services of employees such as cooks, drivers, maids, personal trainers, housekeepers, etc. Without considering the types of goods that are available to these millionaires and that all these are not part of the daily lives of these workers, as the excessive consumption of clothing, accessories, attendance at restaurants, hotels, events, etc.
Among the places of greatest concentration of shops and services for the rich are: Oscar Freire Street (Photo 1), Iguatemi Mall (Photo 2), Cidade Jardim Mall (Photo 3) and JK Iguatemi Mall (Photo 4).
Photo 1. Oscar Freire Street - São Paulo, Brazil, 2014.
Photo 2: Iguatemi Mall - São Paulo, Brazil, 2014.
Photo 3: Cidade Jardim Mall – São Paulo, Brazil, 2014.
19Photo 4: JK Iguatemi – São Paulo, Brazil, 2014.
20Oscar Freire Street, which crosses the Jardins district is currently the ninth most elegant street in the world for shopping, according to the Market Analysis International Consulting. In the blocks between the Bela Cintra, Haddock Lobo, Melo Alves, Consolação and Augusta streets are located the most fashionable brands in the world, among which are: Cartier, Mont Blanc, Diesel, Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Tiffani and Co., Roberto Cavalli, Burberry, Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Versace, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc.
21In 2006 and 2007 it underwent a major renovation in its sidewalks, widening them and burying its wiring, leaving a cleaner environment by planting new trees and flower beds. On the sidewalks, cafeterias, snack bars and ice cream parlors now put their tables and chairs and consumers share space with pedestrians, vendors, subway workers, beggars, guards, dogs, domestic servants, valets, etc.
22Another strong point of concentration of luxury shops in the city is the Iguatemi Mall. Located at Faria Lima Avenue, district of Pinheiros, Faria Lima is one of the new financial centers of the city. The Iguatemi mall, the oldest mall in Brazil, since its opening in 1966, had as its theme, to be the main shopping center of Sao Paulo elite. To do this, it always sought to hold the most famous clothing and accessories stores in the whole world. Over the past five years, the Iguatemi opened two new shopping areas to broaden their options for shopping. Actually what is witnessed at the mall is an extension of Oscar Freire, once most of the shops with units on this street, also maintains one in the mall.
23The annual turnover of the mall is on the order of 1.1 billion reais, higher than the earnings of the second largest chain of department store in the country which is Magazine Luiza store. The 330 stores of Iguatemi attract 46,000 daily users, and of these, 67% have incomes greater than 13,000 reais. In other words, it is a large enterprise which has the rich people of Brazil its largest consumer market. In Iguatemi, we can find branches of some brands such as Dolce & Gabbanna and Claude Laboutin which are not on Oscar Freire.
24The third prominent place is the Cidade Jardim Mall, opened on May 30th, 2008, is one of the newest venture toward the high standard consumption of Brazil. With the prospect of working with 180 luxury shops, it opened with 120 stores and running 4 of the 6 previewed restaurants, besides the largest and most expensive Gym in the country and the largest Spa in Latin America.
25In its project there are no food courts or air -conditioning, although it is a mall. The idea is to recreate in the indoor environment the feeling of shopping in a quiet, safe and exquisite shopping street in the city center, but without the inconveniences that these sites can bring to the luxury consumer. Thus, it was not used marble on floors but granite stone and tiles typically found on the sidewalks of the competitor Oscar Freire street. Another technique used was the internal gardens. All stores of the mall are facing an internal garden of tropical trees originally from the land where it was raised, producing an internal microclimate always fresh and pleasant, according to residential property launches operating in Sao Paulo that use the Green Space motto - Nature - Security, to sell their housing units.
26In this mall there are branches of the same stores found at the three sites listed above, besides the new stores of Hermés and Rolex, uniques in Brazil.
The fourth and newest business venture aimed at the luxury segment of the Sao Paulo capital city is the JK Iguatemi Mall. Located at Funchal and Juscelino Kubitcshek Streets it is a shopping center that aims to attract new luxury stores which want to build their branches in Sao Paulo and can not find more places available in Iguatemi and Cidade Jardim, due to limited space in these centers. With the same managers of Iguatemi, the idea of this mall is to provide an opportunity for the entry of new brands, and allow the expansion of the ones already operating in Brazil.
27In Sao Paulo there is a range of high standard shops of fashion and accessories, almost on the same level that the richest cities of the world like New York, Dubai, London, Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Milan or Tokyo.
28Networks like Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Diesel, Hermes, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Versace, Montblanc, Rolex, Tiffany & Co, Dior Fendi, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Coach and others, have at least two to three stores in Sao Paulo, located in ventures no farther from each than 2 km.
29Commercial forms are changing and adapting to the new conditions of capital reproduction, being located in different business ventures, but that focus on the same final consumer, the high yield ones. Thus, we can state:
There are luxury commerce in Street shops (Oscar Freire);
There are luxury commerce in traditional malls (Iguatemi);
There are luxury commerce in new formats of malls, built specifically for rich consumers, where the site was exclusively designed to cater to this consumer (Cidade Jardim).
There are luxury commerce in a traditional renewed formats of mall, built specifically for rich consumers in additional medium class. A place to improve the luxury commerce in the city inside a modern mall project.
30Thus, Sao Paulo presents itself to the international luxury market as a centrality in the process of growing and expansion, as a result of the high concentration of wealthy people who live in, visit or attend it, reinforcing its role as a world city and articulator node of the national economy with the world.
31It is not only the Sao Paulo dwellers that consume in these stores, it is also included as potential consumers all the rich of Brazil which, for various reasons, come to Sao Paulo. They are residents of large cities in the Northeast, South, Midwest and municipalities in the state that do not have stores of these brands, but reseller stores.
32The major complaint that these consumers do to their local shops in their states is that they do not sell the current collection, but items from the past collection for the same price of the current collection, already imported and which were not sold in the headquarters of Sao Paulo, so a dress costing R$ 5,000.00 of the current collection in a Sao Paulo store, can be sold in Campo Grande, Recife or Ribeirao Preto, for the same value, only six months later, after it has already been on sale in Sao Paulo.
33In other words, in Sao Paulo the scope of care of these stores is national. Their market is Brazil throughout the year, unlike other countries, where these brand names have outlet stores which sell old collections for much lower prices. This fact ensures the exclusivity of the brand to a small and specific niche of buyers, but who are faithful to the consumption of these products. Thus, we notice why in Sao Paulo there are so many branches of the most expensive brands in the world. Besides existing specific demand, there is expansion and consolidation among potential consumers of the factors that ensure sales growth in these places – exclusivity, novelty, modernity.
34In the last ten years, luxury networks found in Sao Paulo a new place to invest. They found a repressed demand for luxury services and shops which before was consumed in foreign subsidiaries during international trip of the consumers. It is no longer necessary to travel to buy novelties launched in Paris or Milan.
35The rapid growth in the last ten years of the luxury commerce sector is linked to the rapid expansion of modern real estate investments held in Sao Paulo in relation to residential, commercial and business ventures, which attracted large capital inflows to the city. The increased demand for offices, services, expansion of financial, industrial, banking, administration and management transactions in the city, attracted large numbers of people with high incomes who came to live or circulate with greater frequency in the metropolis, fact that propelled commerce and some support services to this demand (restaurants, hotels, event spaces) to open new units or inaugurate the first stores.
- 1 Including businesses involved in illegality - weapons, drugs, contraband.
36The concentration of luxury commerce in the southwest part of the city, specifically in the vicinity of the Pinheiros River in a quadrangle which surrounds Oscar Freire, Consolacao, Europa, Cidade Jardim, Faria Lima, Funchal and Marginal Pinheiros streets and avenues, clearly shows the union and dependence that this sector has on the most lucrative and profitable business concentrated in this region1.
37Brazil beside countries in industrial development in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea, plus the United Arab Emirates, China, Eastern European countries, Mexico, Argentina, India and South Africa, are the markets which are playing major attraction to open luxury stores.
38Keeping the proportions in terms of population, Sao Paulo has some of the most profitable units of the globe in some units like the Mont Blanc, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co.
39From the standpoint of the forms of commerce, the analysis of the locations for the consumption of luxury goods reinforce the thesis of Pintaudi (1989) that the malls can be called "temples of the goods." In this direction, we move the discussion introducing that today, the specialization of the market and construction of projects aimed at specific public, being them of high or low incomes, have deepened the "ritualistic" question of the consuming act. If we consider that temples are places for religious worship, devotion and practice of faith in various spiritual concepts and beliefs, the malls will also be more diverse, different and renewed.
40In the case of those designated to high yield public, the construction of the "temple" emphasizes even more the spectacle of consumption, dedicating, through architecture and techniques for construction and decoration of the rooms, new "altars" for the practice of consumption. The goods rises in the new showcase assembly techniques, the brand becomes haughty with the logo fixed on the store entrance, the minimalist arrangement of objects near the door ennobles the items, making the store a true altar under a canopy that allows the celebration of rituals born in dream images that only the belief in the consumption signs, in brands and in clothes and jewelry soothe the soul of the consumer.
41Thus, in the luxury goods temple it also matters in what form the architecture and internal and external arrangement of the elements that compose it, divide and unite the participants of the consumption ritual, making the altar and baldachin important pieces to any temple to become the specific temple of a portion of faithful ones. The shape of the temple should gather, call and invite only those who really know and can do the ritualistic terms which are established there, at the same time it should repel, expel and put away those who do not know, or rather those who are not invited for not having the specific means which would put him/her as a member of the group. Thus, the consumption ritual specializes itself according to the goods, even if the act is the same found in a pen of R$ 1.00 or of R$ 10,000.
42Before these four locations that allow the movement of large amount of money by the act of materialization of consumption of goods and services linked to the high luxury fashion, it behooves us to a question: How does Sao Paulo, which figures in the list of world cities, but is also one of the cities with the largest poor neighborhoods of the globe, allow the coexistence of these two sectors?
43The poor live on the edge of life with the image of wealth as the animation panel of their lives, feeding the marginal sector that is based on the copy of the product consumed by the elites. What marks out the consumption of lower income classes is to be sure that they can not have an original product purchased by their weight in gold, but the copy is openly and freely sold through the city center, suburbs, street corners, shopping centers at all times. The consumption of the rich ends up controlling the own profile of the poor purchases. What is interesting is the analysis of incongruity that governs replicas and copies consumer thinking.
44The luxury market ends up controlling not only people of high incomes. With copies being produced and distributed throughout the world the luxury industry, it also leads the production of this low standard sector, since nowadays the copy hits newsstands and street vendors at a rate as fast as the original item is distributed at the stores.
45The coexistence and passivity against the overconsumption of some and the lack of infrastructure and economic and social conditions of much of the population is what fastest grows in the eyes of those who think the construction of a more equitable urban space and use and ownership of all its inhabitants.
46Thus, increasing the city features as a segregated and segregator location. The poor may even get around the area of the rich, but they can never make use of and enjoy these rights. The city thus appears as the place of the impoverishment of the quotidian life, since it does not allow the dialog, only greed, copy, indifference.