Leaders encouraging businesses to move to the CBD

Business can thrive: Kidd and Co owner Allison Filinski has shown it's possible to do well and is currently expanding her shop. Photo: Emily Sharp.
Business can thrive: Kidd and Co owner Allison Filinski has shown it's possible to do well and is currently expanding her shop. Photo: Emily Sharp.

Leaders are encouraging businesses to take advantage of opportunities available within the CBD with more than 100 vacancies up for grabs and major projects expected to create an upswing in the economy.

Commercial Realty principal Mike Jenkins said they currently had about 50 vacant properties across all sectors in the CBD and probably more than 100 vacancies overall, taking into account other agents.

"Yes, demand for retail space has declined but this is evident not only across Australia but world-wide," he said.

"Rents have softened. Lessors are meeting the market and offering incentives."

Despite the growing number of vacancies, Mr Jenkins said the CBD had a lot going for it with significant developments underway, He encouraged new businesses to explore the opportunities.

"There are many very successful and vibrant retail/service/office/professional and consulting businesses operating in the CBD which provide a base but we need to build on that," he said.

"We have a wonderful mix of food and hospitality venues underpinned by some iconic establishments

"What we would like to see is new business... there has been some but more needed."

Mr Jenkins said many factors were at play and stressed it was not a problem exclusive to Bunbury.

"The problem is simply little demand for new space. Retail has changed dramatically for a variety of reasons. More and more business is being done on line and is reducing the need to have bricks and mortar offices," he said.

"We have to adapt and change. From a Bunbury CBD point of view, we badly need the Centrepoint redevelopment, which will help instill confidence back into the centre of town."

Bunbury Geographe Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president Rob Skipsey echoed Mr Jenkins' sentiments, describing Centrepoint as the potential golden jewel of the CBD.

"From the chamber's point of view, we would support active participation in making Centrepoint a golden jewel of the CBD," he said.

"It's a destination, so you've got to have a multifaceted offering. Centrepoint is one of the key stops."

Mr Skipsey said it was concerning to see more businesses leaving the CBD, with tough trading conditions impacting retail and hospitality the most.

"We are working together with the City of Bunbury and with the landlords. We've had a number of discussions around how we can improve Bunbury as a destination," he said.

"The CBD, particularly, it's not a pretty face when you see the empty shops and certainly shops with 'for lease' signs on and banners that are not attractive.

"We're challenging the landlords to make their premises look more attractive and certainly in changing the face of the CBD to make it an attractive destination to come to.

"We're working with the City of Bunbury to look at what we can do in terms of night-time atmosphere and ambience."

Mr Skipsey said it was important to focus on what Bunbury had to offer to help increase confidence.

"If you look at business confidence, the tide is turning, the signs of upswing are there," he said.

"We need to talk about the good things and what Bunbury has to offer and make it an exciting destination for people to come to.

"We're talking to real estate about maybe looking at different ways of short-term leasing that will allow people to have a go that can reinvigorate areas and bring a different offering that we don't currently have."

The City of Bunbury is working on its City Centre Action Plan to help shape the future of the CBD, which is expected to be released later this year, and earmarked $2 million in this year's budget to improve open spaces.

Kidd and Co owner Allison Filinski has shown businesses can thrive, expanding her store just one year after opening. She said there were plenty of benefits of having your own shopfront and hoped more businesses would move to the CBD soon.

City of Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan said the CBD presented a unique experience with the retail area predominantly made up of owner-operator businesses.

"We have the opportunity of having the unique, in-touch interchange between the actual owner and the customer and I think that's a more intimate personalised experience," he said.

"For the Bunbury central area, we need to ensure that the commercial primacy of the area is retained."

What businesses would you like to see in Bunbury's CBD? Email editor@bunburymail.com.au.