Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas blasts city bosses over record vacancy rates in CBD shopping hubs

Kim MacdonaldThe West Australian,
New research shows 21.5 per cent of shops in the city’s major shopping hubs are sitting empty.
New research shows 21.5 per cent of shops in the city’s major shopping hubs are sitting empty. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

The vacancy rate in the city’s main shopping centre hubs has hit a fresh high, prompting a mayoral rebuke for big employers.

New JLL research shows 21.5 per cent of shops in the city’s major shopping hubs are sitting empty.

The current rate is surprisingly higher than the 19.5 per cent vacancy experienced in the second half of 2020, before the economy had recovered further from the pandemic.

JLL research manager Ronak Bhimjiani said the shopping hubs in his research included Forrest Chase, the Hay and Murray St malls, Trinity Arcade, Cloisters and Enex 100.

But even the index known as the blended vacancy rate, which includes all city streets, was at a record high of 18.1 per cent.

Perth holds the mantle as having the highest blended retail vacancy rate of any city in Australia, at a time when every other capital has also peaked.

Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas says big city employers need to recall their staff to the office to help support businesses as vacancy rates in main CBD shopping hubs hit fresh highs.
Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas says big city employers need to recall their staff to the office to help support businesses as vacancy rates in main CBD shopping hubs hit fresh highs. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said the issue was complex, but he blasted city-based employers for failing to do their bit to help local retailers.

“Online shopping and COVID have not been kind to the CBD but nor are big employers who keep their workers out of the office,” Mr Zempilas said.

“Suddenly it’s all the rage to let office staff have a day or two at home.

“Where’s the data which says that produces better outcomes in the long run?

“WA has been very good for these big corporates.

“How about they return the favour by supporting the capital city of the State which helps them do so well?”

Mr Bhimjiani said the record retail vacancy coincided with a fresh high in the take-up of industrial property.

More than 160,000sqm of industrial property — or the size of almost 10 MCG ovals — was rented in the first half of the year in the metropolitan area.

This marked a record take-up in the sector. The bi-annual average is closer to 105,000sqm.

This year’s bi-annual take-up includes 87,418sqm in the second quarter of 2021, which is a quarterly record for WA.

Mr Bhimjiani said both records were partly driven by a third record — the rise in online shopping.

WA has been very good for these big corporates. How about they return the favour by supporting the capital city of the State which helps them do so well?

Basil Zempilas

He said popularity was growing locally as online retailers improved their offering, with Amazon Prime among those to deliver products within 24 hours of an order.

He agreed the work-from-home trend had a significant impact on vacancy rates, with fewer city-based employees reducing the potential pool of customers.

But he also blamed parking issues, relatively expensive leases and restricted retail hours.

Meanwhile, logistics companies involved in e-commerce largely had plenty of support, with rents in this sector only just rising after years of stagnation.

Rents rose, 4 per cent in the second quarter of 2021, for the first time since the end of 2018.

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