Freo's View

COMMUNITY NEEDS TO SUPPORT LOCAL TRADERS

Posted in city of fremantle, hospitality, local government, parking, retail, shopping, Uncategorized by freoview on June 7, 2019

 

retail

 

There is a bit of a discussion going on on Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt‘s Facebook page about the decline of retail when he posted the good article by Nathan Hondros on WATODAY about it. Hondros’ article “Striponomics’ The reasons Perth’s main streets are struggling is no big secret is worth a read.

The usual quick fixes are suggested by some readers; free parking and councils forcing property owners to reduce rents, but neither is a solution in a world where retail has been declining for at least five years and where major shopping centres have replaced traditional high street shopping.

I don’t know all the reasons for the decline in Perth, Mouth Lawley, Subiaco and elsewhere but I do know that the City of Fremantle has been trying hard to keep and get a diversity of retail in the city, instead of more and more cafes and taverns.

Fact is that councils can’t force property owners to lower rents and that many retailers are struggling because of rising outgoings such as power, water and gas. More competition might lower coffee prices for patrons but at the end that is not sustainable either for the operators.

Pop-up shops are the flavour of most councils but they are not a long-term solution because most of those who start a pop-up realise they can’t earn enough if they have to pay full commercial rates plus outgoings, so pop-ups do what their name suggest; they pop up and die after three or six months.

The always suggested free parking is not at all a solution because free parking will be taken up all day by commuters from Fremantle to Perth, backpackers, and Notre Dame students, so that would not leave too many bays for shoppers.

There is plenty of parking in Fremantle on weekdays and residents get free street parking before 11am and after 3pm.

Fremantle Council has a small ratepayers base so parking fees and fines are essential income for our city. Free parking would mean higher rates and I doubt property owners would agree that they had to pay for free parking of others. If it happened they would pass on the council rate increase to their tenants.

On very busy Sundays Fremantle might have the occasional parking issue, but surely no one expects Council to cater for weekend parking by creating more parking bays that would be vacant the rest of the week. It is like suggesting we should have 16-lane freeways to cater for rush hour traffic when for the rest of the day six lanes are sufficient.

I love the feeling of a good old high street, where there is a diversity of shops and were shop operators live above or behind their shops, as was the case in my home town of Hague in the Netherlands, where our family of seven lived behind the corner shop my parents ran, the pharmacist family on the other corner lived above their shop, the grocery shop people and the bookbinder next door lived behind the shop, as did the butcher on the other side of the street.

But times have changed and 25% of Australians engaged in on-line shopping last year, and money is tight with too many unemployed people.

There are never easy solutions, but we can all help by shopping local, even when it costs a few dollars more. Councils can not enforce shopping diversity or lowering of rents and we can only keep asking for property owners to keep the rents as low as possible so that our traders can survive and new traders are more willing to take the risk of starting in Freo.

Roel Loopers

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