Bentleigh Consumerism

Vacant shops

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.

Street strip shopping in Centre Road

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.

Bentleigh "Love local" campaign

How are your local shops doing?

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

10 replies on “Vacant shops”

Regardless, Centre Road remains a vibrant Melbourne “shopping strip” – one of the few without trams passing by. But there is a good train service through Bentleigh station and local buses.

Melbourne’s distinctive shopping strips are a treasure from another era. Sadly, the smaller strips (mostly close to stations and selling everyday supplies) have generally succumbed to the automobile era. But many remain in use for other purposes, e.g. professional offices.

Perhaps it all comes down to price? Presumably the rent in a premium location (close to the station or next to a supermarket, maybe) will be more than the rent down the street. So, a new business has to weigh up whether to pay a higher rent for a “good” location, or less rent for a location down the street. Although I don’t know how this works in Bentleigh (I’m not familiar with the area) it may explain the scattering of vacancies, as you’ve observed. There may also be individual factors, such as floor area and whether a property has plumbing etc configured to suit a particular tenant. But also, in the retail sector, as the ABC article states, it seems that landlords (advised by estate agents and even banks) are often reluctant to reduce rents, because that will affect the outcome of rental reviews on properties in the area generally. So, they give new tenants up-front “deals”, such as contributions to fit-out costs, an initial rent-free period etc. Perhaps the developer of the station precinct was generous with these?

On the initiative to shop local, there are several campaigns running at the moment. Kochie has one with his small business first website, so does Amex (this may have expired). I know Monash council is also running one. Maybe your council will be looking at something similar.

Nice piece of research. Yep, pretty amazing that “all shops now tenanted” around Bentleigh/McKinnon in a pandemic.
My local shopping strip is Hampton Street which has adjacent Hampton railway station.
A lot of shops are temporarily (?) closed due to lockdown, such as gyms, massage, restaurants, bars and many clothing shops – probably due to less foot traffic. Woolworths continues to be busy.
There are a growing number of vacant shops. This includes shops that closed pre-pandemic but have not found new tenants.

We live a block away from Glenferrie Rd Malvern and have noticed a large increase in shop vacancies popping up over the last year. I certainly think the vacancy % is more than the 5.4% reported in that 2018 article you have linked. Many have been sitting dormant for 12 months or more, and I wonder what exactly the owner’s are getting out of leaving them vacant/not dropping rents – maybe there just isn’t enough demand? Would be nice to know what is happening behind the scenes.

Some have been leased, and I question the amount of business research that went into them, e.g. the independent icecream/gelato shop that seems way too large a floor space for the purpose, and is across the road from the incredibly popular with the teenage crowd Yo-Chi.

Anyway, i’m hoping activation of the area picks up – its a fantastic place to live and there is still lots of variety to choose from, but can be disheartening seeing for lease signs on every 4th or 5th shopfront.

Plenty of vacant shops everywhere. Take a look down Chapel St or Bridge Rd….this was the case way before Covid even started. Plenty of discussion on this in other economic forums and sites too. Its crumbling big time. Now, office buildings are next as companies all over are realising they can offload their staff to work from home (and pay for their own electricity and heating and cooling and cups of tea and coffee…). This is also accelerating shops becoming empty as the move to online grows with the pandemic. (Look at Kogan now being worth more than bricks and mortar shops Myer and David Jones combined…) Times are changing right before our eyes – everywhere still imports from China and sells it to us but just differently.

@Anon, it used to be just “Target”, but there was a point at which Target actively rebranded its smaller stores as Target Country – presumably most of them are in regional areas, and they may have also wanted to set expectations about the size of the range people might find in those smaller stores.

The reason I go to Bentleigh is for the op shops. There are 6 now, down from 8 a year or so ago. They are mostly great op shops and I think would draw a lot of people to that shopping strip. Put it this way, if they weren’t there I wouldn’t bother to go there as most of the other shops (or ones like them) can be found elsewhere.

Eye opener indeed.. The best we can do is support the local businesses and keep the neighbourhood vibrant. The Pandemic will surely pass and our social life will return (modified). Love thy Neighbour

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