Rent pain

Monday 19 December 2011

Rent pain

Empty retail shops have become a common sight in what was once a vibrant shopping strip, as rents continue to push business owners to the brink - and beyond.

Macrossan Street tenants are hardest hit with a handful of landlords who own much of the retail property reportedly charging rents of up to $22,000 a month, with reports from some business owners saying they face a hike in rents rather than the decrease they urgently require.

According to Jo Wagner, who runs Port Douglas Cookies on Macrossan Street, city based landlords don't understand the market, and apparently don't appear to be trying.

"Most of them I think are Melbourne people that don't even live in the town.

"They come up in June and July when it's thriving and they just think we're whinging and trying to do them out of money. They have no idea what it's like to live and work in Port Douglas.

"It used to be that you could guarantee that you would do your turnover through the busy times so you could squirrel it away so you'd have enough to see you through the quiet time.

"That's not the case anymore. People aren't spending what they used to."

Ms Wagner thanked her regular customers for their support which has enabled her to keep the doors open, highlighting the importance of shopping locally where possible.

President of the Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce, Ken Dobbs, said that an overall loss of businesses can't wholly be attributed to rents, adding that some landlords are open to negotiation.

"There has been a lot of business closures in the past five years, but there has been a new supply in that time frame. The nett position is that we've probably got less than we had at that time.

"The real concern I've got is the loss of take away food outlets. That will do us really damage. The people who come here want restaurants but they also want the take away snack food too."

The Chamber's Doug Calvert agrees that rents are only part of the problem, citing wages and decreased sales as other major factors in the decline of Port's businesses.

Mr Calvert, himself a retail business owner with shops in Macrossan Street, qualified his statement by saying that as sales reduce and rents remain the same, the percentage of turnover required to 
pay the rent increases.

The Chamber will complete a review of business closures in 2011 in January next year.

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