Upgraded malls to compete with suburban retail

OUT in the suburbs, marooned in acres of parking, sit the suburban shopping centres.

With multi-million dollar marketing budgets and the convenience of free parking and one-stop shopping, these retail temples present a real threat to city retailers.

With declining pedestrian levels reflecting the migration to the suburbs, city retail needs something special to keep the tills ringing.

Despite the support of the City of Perth to upgrade the open spaces in the city, for some retailers the $10 million investment in the malls is misdirected.

“I just think $10 million or whatever it is for the malls, is not the way to go,” said one city retailer.

“The city should have the best shops in the state, like the city in towns in the UK, but you look around and there’s only cheap retail here,

“I don’t know what the answer is, maybe advertising, but it’s not about the malls.”

The major suburban shopping centres are able to brand their centres as a destination for shopping.

And the convenience of free parking and the one-stop nature of the centres make it difficult for the city centre to compete.

A number of city retailers believe the city should imitate the high-profile advertising campaigns the suburban centres run to attract people back into the city.

Colliers International managing director Graham Iddles feels the city has to actively fight against the suburbans.

“When you’re looking at the CBD, you really have to analyse it against the major suburbans,” Mr Iddles said.

“Things like having to pay for parking, it’s not rocket science, but why would you come into the city on a Sunday if you have to pay for parking?”

But Mr Iddles accepts it is very easy to be critical without coming up with any real solutions.

“The City of Perth had a theory to put a market into the town, but the retailers kicked up a fuss,” Mr Iddles said

“Would a market be good? Maybe it would drag people into the city.”

Former managing director of the Aherns department store Robyn Ahern has a good understanding of the issues for city retailers, especially trading on the malls.

Ms Ahern said the malls had become run down and consequently attracted an antisocial element.

“When a site gets grotty it attracts people like that, if you don’t invest in infrastructure you don’t get results,” Ms Ahern said.

“The other thing is that there is lots of retailers investing money (in the city) and the infrastructure needs to get up to speed with it.

“I think there’s much more of a trend for customers to (choose between) say Karrinyup, Garden City or the City.”

Retail Traders’ Association manager Brian Reynolds sees the upgrade plans for the mall as a step in the right direction for the city retailers.

“It clearly supports the level of investment by retail in the city and provides encouragement for customers,” Mr Reynolds said.

“I guess the fundamental issue here is the city needs to be able to offer attractions over and above the major regional centres.”

The city still needs the flagship stores for major retailers to attract clients into the city.

“There are always opportunities for high-quality niche retailers such as the set up in King Street, but that’s not an overall answer,” Mr Reynolds said.

“It’s not fair for the industry to criticise the city or the vision of the Lord Mayor unless it is prepared to respond in a positive way to investment in the city.”

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