A small leaflet announcing the opening of a ‘festive market’, McWhirters Marketplace, was placed in my letterbox towards the end of 1989. I was surprised and pleased to read that the developers planned to retain the façade of the old department store and incorporate much of its history into the festive market concept. I was also curious. Why a festive market-place, why here and why now? How did a festive market differ spatially from a department store, and how might those differences be interpreted? Recent studies of department stores and shopping centres (for example, Benson, 1986; Reekie, 1987a; Morris, 1988) have alerted us to some of the sexual meanings and processes of gender formation implicit in urban and public spaces, and to the strong association between consumption and the feminine. In McWhirters Marketplace, however, the female character of consumption and retail space was less obvious.