Steady. Don't get excited. Not that you probably were getting excited. A year or two ago maybe, but not now. Justin Bieber, teen moppet turned bad boy, just doesn't raise the excitement in the way he did. But then who knows, maybe he'll prove to be the male Britney Spears, re-emerging on the other side after a time in the darkness. It was never like this in David Cassidy's day.
In case you were wondering, Bieber isn't in Can Picafort and has never been in Can Picafort. But his image is. I was looking at it the other day. It was staring back at me from a display near the entrance to a perfumery. I know the owner well. Is Bieber selling? Not this summer, she replied. Last summer yes, but not now. It's all about the image, I supposed. Becoming a bad boy doesn't do much for the Bieber perfume range. She agreed, though there is always the other factor. The less-than-X factor for a place like Can Picafort. Tourist spend has evaporated into the hot air over a summertime resort that has become All-Inclusive Central.
I enjoy my towards-the-end-of-the-season chats with the perfumery owner. Enjoy because she's a lovely lady, but enjoy is not really the right word. It's enjoyment through her honesty, and the honesty of her impressions of Can Picafort is not terribly positive. It is an honesty that has been characterised by a declining positivity as the years have passed, but she keeps retaining her optimism and her business sense. Among perfumeries which, let's face it, can all seem like much of a muchness, she puts herself out there, advertising, keeping going. Hers is the only perfumery I know of in the area that makes such an effort.
With Bieber in decline, what have been the big-sellers this season, I wonder. There haven't been any. Not in the sense of there having been what she calls a "boom" range. The solid, classic brands sell well enough, Dior, Chanel, Paco Rabanne, Dolce & Gabbana. The last real boom was the Paco Rabanne One Million range. It sold on the back of excellent advertising. She reckons there wasn't a household on Mallorca that didn't have a One Million of some sort. Strange in a way. We both agree that the packaging is not the most tasteful you'll ever see.
But this is a perfumery (two in fact) on the main drag in Can Picafort, the one that runs behind the narrow promenade frontline, where mostly tourists would be customers, wouldn't they be? Yes and no. Without the trade from the locals, it would be hard to survive, I'm guessing, as it would be for the other shops. And shops is about all you see. I hadn't appreciated until she told me that there are now virtually no cafes along the road, the victims of all-inclusive. Paris disappeared a year or so back; it's now a fashion shop. It was once almost synonymous with Can Picafort.
Yet, the replacement by shops hasn't changed the dynamic. Time was, a few years ago, when the perfumery would have been packed around eight in the evening during the summer. Not now.
Perfume is of course a discretionary purchase for the tourist. But then it always was. And more or less anything else that a tourist buys is discretionary, including a beer in a bar or a meal in a restaurant. Tourists have to eat and drink, but they have other options - the supermarkets or more likely the all-inclusive. You tend not to hear as much about how the shift in the tourism market has affected the retail sector as you do about its impact on bars and restaurants or attractions, the ones who shout louder and make their voices heard more. Sure, you hear from the large retailers, like the supermarket multiples, but little from the small businesses. They suffer in a more silent way.
The double-whammy of reduced spend and the rise of the all-inclusive is so familiar a theme that it seems to almost no longer warrant mentioning. But mention has to continue if only to ask where we are heading: where a resort like Can Picafort is heading. My perfumery owner, ever looking for reasons to be optimistic, tells me that one of the better-known all-inclusives in town is separating off part of the hotel and creating a hotel within a hotel. It won't be all-inclusive. It will be for a better type of tourist, a euphemism for one who spends money. Perhaps others will follow, but even if they do, will they only nibble away at the edges of a frayed resort that faces such future uncertainty? Can Picafort needs a boom. It needs a Bieber, but one that doesn't go bad.