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GEELONG RETAIL ON THE RISE

Posted: September 26, 2012 by zeinclarkeproductions in Deakin University, Geelong

By Christopher Clarke

Despite appearances retail in Geelong may be on the rise according to research compiled by Australian property advisors Opteon Victoria.

Much public concern relates to the redevelopment of Geelong shopping centers Market Square and Westfield and its impact on smaller retail businesses in the CBD.

According to Opteon Victoria  the Geelong CBD comprises of 791 individual retail shops with 41% existing within Geelong’s main shopping centers.

In February 2011 total retail space vacancies within the CBD’s core shopping strips stood at 13.3% in stark contrast to the 1.8% of Market Square and Westfield.

Although these figures identify a bleak outlook for retail in Geelong,  Opteon Research Manager Richard Jenkins suggests that retail levels have in fact trended up in Geelong’s CBD over the past two years.

Jenkins identifies that total vacancy by gross lettable area reached its highest in June of 2009 however had now fallen below 10%.

Jenkins believes a number of factors contributed to the high vacancy rate in 2009, namely the global financial crisis.

He suggests a significant number of retail spaces available in the CBD are situated in old-fashioned spaces which are unattractive to the majority of retailers.

Local resident Julian Wetherell suggests that shopping at Westfield is simply a more convenient and efficient way to shop in Geelong.

However, despite the concern surrounding the future of retail in Geelong Victorian company Thomas Jewellers in July released plans for a $3.3 million refurbishment.

Store manager Paul Whittaker hopes that the refurbishment can prove to be a catalyst to reinvigorate the retail market in Geelong’s CBD.

The company aims to have the store up and running before the beginning of the  Christmas trading season.

According to sales assistant Elizabeth Clarke at ‘Gifts for the Geek’ the retail market has changed over the last few years.

Clarke believes the shop front plays only a “secondary role for the business which predominately operates online”.

The Geelong Region Alliance (G21) has also identified that a vibrant and thriving CBD is typified by high volumes of “foot traffic, range and diversity of housing options, high quality shop fronts…and the presence of places where diverse groups of people can interact comfortably”.

G21 is hopeful that Deakin University‘s expansion of the their facilities and student numbers at their waterfront campus could be an impetus for change.

Deakin plans to increase its student base at its waterfront campus to 10,000 students beginning in 2013.

In an interview with the Geelong Advertiser Deakin executive director of facilities and services Kevin Murphy stated that the influx of students in 2013 will significantly benefit the centre of Geelong.

G21 believes that the addition of high-density residential space coupled with an increase in foot traffic is essential to establishing and embedding vibrancy to Geelong’s CBD.