At long last the shops built as part of the new Bentleigh station (my local) have been leased. Somewhat to my surprise, in the middle of an economy-busting pandemic, they’re being fitted out now. One of them will be a medical centre.
Following a conversation on Twitter about it, I was curious to see if there is any pattern to the vacant shops along the rest of Centre Road, for instance whether shops closer or further from the station were more likely to be vacant.
So the other night I walked from end to end, noting down which shops are vacant. I included those with signage showing they’ve been leased, but excluded lease signs for individual offices in big buildings (down the western end). I also excluded shops on the side streets.
So the pattern is… I can’t see any pattern. The empty shops seem fairly evenly spaced.
Apart from this: to my mind, the only shops that have been vacant for a long period of time are the big ex-Target store at number 401, since they vacated in late 2018, and those shops in the station building, empty since 2016 when built, apart from a recent short lease “pop-up” fashion shop.
Now, for the first time, all the station shops at Bentleigh and McKinnon have been leased, though right now they are still empty, being fitted-out.
The loss of Target Country from Centre Road in 2018 was something of a blow, as a big property like that is difficult to fill. And smaller shops often rely on “anchor tenants” to get the punters in. But the ongoing presence of multiple supermarket chains (Coles, Woolworths and Aldi) is probably helping a lot.
This ABC article noted specific problems with shops below apartment blocks, particularly where they were placed outside existing retail areas.
But even within shopping centres, the mix of shops has changed: more than half the new ventures were not retailers but services, such as lawyers, masseurs and gyms.
From my observations, of the roughly 250 shops in Centre Road, 16 are vacant. That’s about 6%, slightly below the 8.6% average reported across eleven prominent Melbourne strips (which did not include Centre Road) in 2018.
Obviously in 2020, bars, restaurants and cafes are suffering more than most. Some have pivoted to take-away food, to maintain some level of income.
And as the pandemic rolls on though, who knows what will happen.
So while it might be tempting just to order everything online from afar, it’s also worth trying to support local retailers where possible. Otherwise when the pandemic eventually disappears, the shops you used to like may have disappeared as well.
How are your local shops doing?