16/09/2020 - 10:18

Wake-up call for CBD retail

16/09/2020 - 10:18

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It will take a mix of planning, marketing and property redevelopment initiatives to resuscitate Perth’s ailing CBD retail market.

Wake-up call for CBD retail
The redevelopment of Carillon City includes a mix of entertainment offerings. Image: Hames Sharley

Vacant shopfronts and ‘for lease’ signs have become a familiar sight along the city’s retail strips in recent years, but Kristi Dempster says a coordinated approach could turn that around and provide a much-needed wake-up call. 

The managing director of Assembly + Co, a marketing firm that specialises in retail precincts and destination projects, says she’s watched the city evolve and reinvent itself over the past 20 years, first as a student and now from an office in Trinity Arcade. 

“For a period of my life I could have recited the tenancy mix on every street that made up Perth’s CBD,” Ms Dempster told Business News

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“I just genuinely loved the sense of discovery, the unearthing of a CBD secret, the energy of the city, its grit and graffiti.

“The city is full of sub precincts. It comprises neighbourhoods with their own unique built form, public space and tenancy mix. All parts must contribute to the whole; however, the whole for the last decade has remained largely undefined.” 

Ms Dempster said one of the biggest challenges facing the CBD, besides the shrinking office cohort, which formed a main source of city foot traffic, was a lack of a clearly defined destination brand for Perth city, and a strategy to support it. 

In recent years, Assembly + Co worked with Mirvac to reposition Allendale Square, as well as Sirona Capital’s Kings Square Fremantle retail offering, FOMO, which is expected to open in 2021. 

“In retail terms, the tenancy mix is the product and the built form is the packaging,” Ms Dempster said. 

It was then up to marketing and communications, she said, to employ a multi-platform approach to engage with user groups.

Ms Dempster said establishing shared priorities across stakeholder groups and sectors was one immediate approach the city could take, as was assembling a retail task force that integrated key stakeholders and disciplines: landlords, architects, designers, brand, marketing, place, communications and leasing, among others. 

“Retail requires an integrated approach,” Ms Dempster said. 

“There are incredible entrepreneurs, designers, architects, restaurateurs and hoteliers in this city; we have all the answers, it’s all in how we frame it.”

Fragmented ownership was another challenge facing the CBD retail market, according to Y Research director Damian Stone

Mr Stone said there were more than 100 landlords in the city, all with different budgets, priorities, and financial capabilities. 

“The collective marketing that a Garden City or a Lakeside can do … in the CBD it’s one versus the 100 or so other owners,” he said. 

Mr Stone estimated there were more than 20 vacancies along the Hay and Murray Street malls. 

“Consumers are spoilt for choice,” he said. 

“We’ve got 78 major shopping centres, and major retail strips down Albany Highway, Cottesloe, Bay View Terrace ... there are a multitude of options, before you even talk about online. 

“In light of the upcoming [council] election, the core question has to be: how do we bring people back into the city? 

“What’s the compelling reason for people to shop, live and work in the city?” 

Investment 

A series of property projects could help to provide those drawcards, including the $12 million facelift of the Piccadilly Arcade on Hay Street Mall, which is under construction and expected to reopen as a live performance venue with renewed retail fitouts. 

Piccadilly’s closure in 2013 left the city without a cinema until Palace Cinemas opened in 2013 as part of the $500 million Raine Square redevelopment. 

More cinema screens are expected to hit the CBD, with Hoyts announcing its intention to move back to the city after a 30-year hiatus as part of the impending $200 million Carillon City redevelopment. 

Carillon owner Dexus Wholesale Property Fund unveiled plans last year, proposing a 24-level mixed-use development featuring a renewed retail precinct, complete with tavern, bowling alley and a tertiary education floor.

A start date is yet to be determined for the project, with Dexus flagging the project as uncommitted in its FY20 results. 

A Dexus spokesperson told Business News the company was still in the master-planning phase for Carillon. 

“Uncommitted means that this project is still in the proposal phase and further commercial arrangements need to be finalised before such plans progress,” the spokesperson said. 

“Once completed, Carillon will reposition the city centre into a vibrant retail, dining and entertainment destination in the heart of the CBD.” 

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