High rents in main street

THE closure of Baskin Robbins in Airlie's main street this week has sparked concern about the cost of commercial rent in the Whitsundays.

There are 38 vacant shops in the main street and Enterprise Whitsundays has described this as an alarming amount.

With Port of Airlie retail development due to open by the New Year, Meridien General Manager Russell McCart said the impact of empty shops on tourism and the general tourism experience in town was “very poor”.

“The town is not as strong and vibrant as it used to be and people want to come to a place where there's lots going on,” he said.

“It narrows the tourism offering – part of being on holiday is shopping and people want to see a whole range of things that they wouldn't generally see in their local shopping centre such as craft-based products.

“When it gets to the stage that the ice cream shop shuts down then we have a problem.”

Enterprise Whitsundays Business Enterprise Manager Melissa Wick said the issue of over-inflated rents in Airlie Beach was ongoing and many businesses had been forced to close their doors or relocate because they simply could not afford it.

“Something needs to be done about this issue, as the over-inflated rentals are causing people to go out of business resulting in many empty shops in the town, which is not acceptable,” she said.

“Landlords need to be realistic about what sort of rent they can charge in a depressed market.

“Ten per cent of gross income is a fair rental, as a rough rule of thumb, or maybe a little more in shopping centres.”

Ms Wick said some businesses in town were paying closer to 50 per cent of their gross trade in the CBD.

She said there were large variances in rents which ranged from $750 per square metre (per year) up to almost $1400 per square metre.

“I understand landlords have commercial obligations too but it's just not common sense to force people out with unrealistic rents,” she said.

Enterprise Whitsundays has started working with landlords and tenants to discuss this issue through information sessions for businesses and landlords.

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