10 Dec 2019

Perth’s retail main streets are suffering as they struggle to keep up with the ever-changing market. However, carving out a unique offering that reflects their local neighbourhood will revive their relevance for consumers, and see them thrive.

Unlike shopping centres that are constantly evolving and extending their offering to attract customers, retail strips have fallen behind causing a loss in revenue and high vacancy rates. This presents a significant challenge for retail strips in their ability to support and sustain growth. 

Despite these challenges there are a number of opportunities for retail strips to succeed by drawing on their unique offering. Urbis Directors, David Cresp and Chris Melsom explore just what it is that sets the high performing retail strips apart from those lagging behind. Success factors include a clear understanding of ‘the pitch’ and offering of the strip, diversity in service offering, day and night activation and a strong focus on people.

Urbis is calling on local governments to better capture and understand data on retail strips to inform the future of these areas; there is a lot more that could be done to assist in shaping these places and spaces to better serve their communities. 

Read more about the challenges and opportunities facing retail strips in the article originally published in The West (paywall) below.

Retail strips have very little data available to give to the councils or tenants to help them understand their market

Chris Melsom View Profile

A strong worker population and increased density in the surrounding area are key to the success of retail strips such as Leederville’s Oxford Street, according to recent analysis by property consultants Urbis.

Urbis director David Cresp said the survey showed that office workers spent an average of $45 a day in the local area where they worked, which could make the difference between a vibrant area and a struggling area.

“The Oxford Street strip in Leederville has 2800 local workers, so their spending is really significant, and this will be further boosted when Dale Alcock’s ABN Group moves to the area,” Mr Cresp said.

“The relationship between increased density and more vibrant retail strips is often not well understood in Perth but at its core, people want to live close to successful retail areas, cafes and places where they can meet other people from their local community.”

Urbis director Chris Melsom said retail main streets should take a closer look at how shopping centres managed and understood their customers, starting with having a clear understanding of the local ethnic, social, cultural and demographic aspects and tailoring the retail offering to suit the community’s specific needs.

“A shopping centre manager has a very detailed understanding of who the customers are, what shops are working and which are not and how many people are coming to the centre at different times of the day and year,” Mr Melsom said.

“Compared to this, the retail strips have very little data available to give to the councils or tenants to help them understand their market.

“Our analysis shows that consumers are attracted to the diversity of retailers in main streets, as well as their distinctive character, interesting architecture, natural environment and sense of place. By playing up these elements and highlighting their point of difference from shopping centres, retail strips can be more competitive.”

Our analysis shows that consumers are attracted to the diversity of retailers in main streets, as well as their distinctive character, interesting architecture, natural environment and sense of place

Chris Melsom View Profile

Town Team Movement convenor Jimmy Murphy said culture, community and sustainability would play pivotal roles in retail strips in the future.

“People are obviously attracted to a diversity of retailers, however, we are finding the other big drawcard is high quality and active public spaces such as playgrounds, town
squares, markets and performance areas,” Mr Murphy said.

“The key to a town centre’s success is not attracting consumers first, but attracting creatives,” he said.

“The most loved town centres are hotbeds of creativity, food, art and culture so we need to let people contribute to place by removing obstacles for business and community to make it their own.

“Local businesses play a vital role and need to be supported so each of our Town Teams consist of positive and proactive business, landowners and residents working together in a neutral space where all stakeholders can have a voice and support a vision and list of actions to improve a place.”

Mr Melsom and Mr Murphy agreed that areas that were able to get a good balance between a day and night economy were also able to be more successful.

“Establishing a night time economy is not easy for retail strips but is certainly something that has huge benefits as it helps bring more vibrancy to the area and lets tenants extend their trading hours and increase turnover,” Mr Melsom said.

“Oxford Street in Leederville is successful due to a number of factors such as having a cinema, a range of restaurants and hotels providing evening activation, sufficient and well-positioned car parking and links to the Leederville train station,” Mr Melsom said.

“In addition, the area benefits from a very proactive council which is doing a good job of place management and ensuring that there are regular events on in the area.”

Establishing a night time economy is not easy for retail strips but is certainly something that has huge benefits

Chris Melsom View Profile

Town Team Leederville Connect chairman Trent Durward said they were focused on growing membership and being a strong advocate for the Leederville community.

“We have run a design lab, social infrastructure study and user experience workshops to analyse how Leederville is experienced by different members and demographics in our community,” Mr Durward said.

“This research is now being used to work out what we need in the public realm to provide for our community as we grow so Leederville remains a welcoming and inclusive community.

“Closing Newcastle street to cars and activating our new village square has meant we could hold various free community events like LeedyPalooza, a 10-day festival with music and events to coincide with Fringeworld, and the 10-day EATerville Festival including the famous long table dinner.

“As well as events, we’re talking to the council about how we can work together along with the property owners to keep the place activated.”

This article was originally published in The West Australian (paywall).