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Retailers may withhold rates

CITY retailers have not ruled out a strike on paying council rates if the City of Perth does not take steps to improve the marketing of CBD retail.

Retailers think council is promoting cultural events in the city ahead of retail.

They have put together a committee to push for a better marketing deal for city retailers that is chaired by ING’s Brian Armstrong.

Their key proposal is to set up a management group, similar to those used by suburban shopping centres, to coordinate city retail marketing for an area bounded by Milligan Street, Victoria Avenue, St Georges Terrace and Wellington Street.

They want council to commit $1.3 million to the group with retailers contributing another $700,000 through a special rate on retail properties in the designated area.

Committee member and Saracen Properties managing director Luke Saraceni said retailers had suggested the rate strike.

“People need to remember that a vibrant city shopping sector is vital for the State. Shopping is just as important for the city as anything else,” Mr Saraceni said.

“If retail is going well in the city there will be more investment in the CBD.”

Property Council of Australia WA Branch executive director Joe Lenzo said there had been a lot of concern about the lack of marketing of CBD retail.

“A few people have been questioning why they are paying their rates with the lack of marketing,” Mr Lenzo said.

Perth Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass told Business News last week that he had heard something about a rate strike but did not think it was a serious suggestion.

Dr Nattrass said he was concerned about the idea of handing over $1.3 million of council money to an autonomous group.

He said council was considering employing a marketing officer tasked solely to look after city shopping that would liaise with city retailers.

Mr Armstrong refused to be drawn on whether a rate strike was on the cards.

He said the committee was trying to work with council to improve marketing in the city.

“Council is putting together its own proposal in relation to their views on city marketing and we’re waiting to see it,” Mr Armstrong said.

However, Mr Armstrong and any of his fellow are not totally at odds with council.

He said there was considerable concern among retailers about the proposed new rail link which is intended to join the CBD with Mandurah through a new route over the Narrows Bridge. The public submission period was closed this week and an independent advisory committee has been formed to consider the options before reporting to Transport Minister Alannah MacTiernan in February next year.

Mr Armstrong believes the significant investment in the city by the large retailers suddenly looks less attractive.

"This may put under threat their investment before they have even started," Mr Armstrong said.

While the larger retailers may have woken up to the impact of the Williams Street Railway line, the same can not be said for many of the smaller operators, many of who would be hit the hardest.

"I think some of the small retailers haven’t woken up to the impact of this massive proposal yet," Mr Armstrong said.

But Mr Armstrong acknowledges that over time there could be some benefits for developers and retailers along William Street.

"The location of retail investment may change over a long period of time but that won’t help the retailers at the moment," he said.

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