Shepparton shop vacancy rate remains a concern

By Thomas Moir

While Wyndham St appears to be benefiting from the new courthouse and Fryers St is thriving with coffee shops, High St’s vacancy rate remains a concern for Greater Shepparton City Council.

And the absence of a long-mooted Shepparton bypass may pose a factor.

The percentage of vacant shops in Shepparton’s central business district increased two per cent in the year from December 2017 to December last year, sitting at just less than 10 per cent.

But this more broadly remains about a six per cent decrease in vacant shops from about six years earlier, in 2012.

Council figures show that from a 7.2 per cent Shepparton CBD vacant shop rate in December 2017, it climbed to 9.8 per cent one year later.

Meanwhile, the differing fortunes of Fryers St and High St appear not to have changed much during 2017, with High St ending last year with 10 per cent more vacant shops than Fryers St.

Fryers St’s rate of vacant shops last year stayed at a consistent low of three to four per cent.

Meanwhile, High St fluctuated between 10 and 16 per cent, ending the year at 14 per cent vacant shops.

Council’s investment attraction manager Anthony Nicolaci said Fryers St was a positive example of a thriving CBD street, creating its own identity as a coffee shop hub.

‘‘We’ve seen the transformation of that precinct as a food hub over the last 12 to 18 months,’’ he said.

Mr Nicolaci similarly highlighted positivity in Wyndham St over the same period, with the completion of the courthouse and introduction of new food premises.

Meanwhile, he described High St as the biggest challenge.

‘‘We’ve seen a decrease steadily on High St over the last few years,’’ he said.

He said a focus remained on working towards the first stage of the city’s long-awaited bypass project that would remove trucks from CBD traffic.

‘‘That’s a major factor... it’s a key factor in what we need to do to help revitalise that part of the CBD,’’ he said.

Wyndham St maintained a steady seven per cent vacant shop rate last year, while Vaughan St closed last year at six per cent vacancies.

Maude St’s vacancy rate last year climbed from eight to 14 per cent, while Corio St climbed from two to nine per cent vacant shops.

A council statement said it was working hard on activation measures within the CBD area to attract locals and visitors to the area to boost economies and make future strides in the retail trade and hospitality industry.

The council’s sustainable development director Geraldine Christou said there was a focus on infrastructure projects to improve the quality of the CBD.

‘‘We advise that the audit conducted in January showed a slight rise in vacancies and was up one per cent from 2017,’’ she said.

‘‘There are unpredictable trends, which council will work alongside the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry and businesses to try to overcome, such as the rise in online shopping, to ensure the CBD is thriving in the current economic climate, and working to leverage from the significant major events held locally.

‘‘In 2012, the vacancy rates were as high as 15.9 per cent and in 2016 as high as 12.5 per cent; now it is 9.8 per cent and we will continue to pursue endeavours to decrease these figures.

‘‘Council will continue to work closely with prospective investors to attract new businesses to the CBD area to provide optimum retail and commercial operations to drive people to the precinct.’’